As urban areas continue to expand, the need to consider nature conservation objectives in planning is growing. Policy makers across Europe recognize that effective nature conservation requires an integrated approach to land use planning that includes relevant ecological and spatial knowledge. Although a number of such integrated approaches have been developed, many local authorities in Europe encounter important institutional barriers to this integration. This is particularly true for countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) like Bulgaria. The post-socialist transformation in Bulgaria led to intensified urban growth and local authorities struggle to find a balance between environmental and socio-economic interests. Meanwhile, the Environmental Policy Integration 'principle' (EPI) has been gaining prominence in Europe, aiming to address the trade-offs between environmental and economic incentives. Research highlights that successful EPI depends on institutional processes within different economic sectors and across governmental scales. These processes have not yet been comprehensively studied in the CEE and in Bulgaria. This article assesses the EPI process in urban planning in Bulgaria and identifies the institutional approaches that may contribute best to EPI in urban planning. Using the example of the "Corner Land" project in the city of Burgas, we discuss the key challenges that the local authorities face in addressing nature conservation in land use plans. The findings indicate that EPI is to a high degree constrained by the lack of an efficient communicative process across fragmented organizational structures throughout the entire planning process. While a procedural approach to EPI appears to be prevalent it is concluded that a communicative approach is urgently needed if the sustainability of urban plans is to be safeguarded and negative impacts on nature prevented.
- Communicative approach
- Environmental policy integration
- Nature conservation
- Urban planning