SUBURBAN SETTLEMENTS IN THE CONTEXT OF URBAN POLICY: LATVIAN EXAMPLE
Conditions of land ownership, land development and land development control on the urban fringe of Latvia are similar to those prevailing in other Baltic countries. In Latvia several factors have combined to produce a situation that is unusually favourable for the individual owners of land on the urban fringe. No legal and administrative barriers, market factors such as the high and rising price of land which created and incentive to speculate in land, weak land development regulations which allowed land-owners to sub-divide and sell land on a plot-by-plot basis at fully urban prices with no requirement to provide urban services. Land-owners avoid any responsibility for the external diseconomies of the development they inﬂuence while selling land. They received net what buyers paid for housing sites, while leaving municipal governments to retroactively have to provide essential public services. This institutional framework has allowed the continuation of unserviced sprawl-type development in urban fringe areas in Latvia, and in particular has encouraged the highly distinctive pattern of intermixture of land-uses. As a result the most important features in Latvia are: the fragmentation of rural land holdings; the continuing mixture of land-use, mixture of interests of land- owners as land users, developers and speculators, and the relative weakness of land development control. The present paper discusses the following main querries: what instruments are available for state and municipality, what is the role of planning in governing and guiding of urban diffusion processes to control urban sprawl in Riga surroundings (Pieriga) in the context of urban and spatial development policy in Latvia. The question is about modern settlement in a concrete spatial and functional context due to active suburbanisation processes in Riga impact area during the past 6-7 years. By deﬁning regional policy towards cohesion, the main emphasis was laid upon application of passive economic support measures. Change of implementation of regional policy measures was observed lately, namely change from support of rural areas towards support for urban centres as drivers of economic development. At the same time, urban centres changed its role and shape due to rapid economic development up to 2007. Particularly larger centres received relatively small support aimed at regional development; they developed by expanding and by creating new structures of economic functional areas in direct vicinity. Being outside the scope of regional policy, development in these territories took place in an unorganized manner. This was possible and was largely due to the lack of implementation of an integrated land policy in Latvia, which would have allowed by means of spatial planning tools the appropriate guidance of development of large cities and their adjacent areas towards rational, sustainable and functionally effective network of settlement structure. Presently suburban areas are characterised by a diverse weakly organized variety of settlement structures, which require transformations. The issue on the agenda is by what means this could be achieved. Whether morphologic approach of spatial organisation and governance is self sustained and what solutions should be suggested. These querries are discursive and discordant.