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Urban sprawl in Europe

There is growing evidence that urban sprawl is having an increasingly negative effect on the environment and on the quality of life across Europe. Existing actions to prevent, contain or control such development have had limited results. Better targeted measures are necessary. That is the main conclusion of a joint European Environment Agency (EEA) and Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) report published today.

This report provides a comparable measurement of urban sprawl for 32 European countries at three levels (the country level, the NUTS-2 region level and the 1-km2 cell level) and for two years (2006 and 2009).

The analysis is based on the Copernicus system which monitors the Earth and collects data by different sources. This data provides information about a number of thematic areas, including land. Under land a pan-European component delivers information about various areas, including the level of sealed soil (imperviousness), through high resolution layers taken from satellite imagery.

The analysis uses new urban sprawl metrics taking into account the way built-up areas are laid out and how they are used. It also looks at the factors which contribute to an increase or decrease in urban sprawl.

The results confirm the conclusions of earlier EEA reports namely that in many parts of Europe current levels of urban sprawl have contributed to detrimental ecological, economic and social effects. This gives cause for concern and such effects may increase alongside planned urban development.