Everyone that comes to Norway is in total awe with the astonishing landscape and the people seemingly living in total harmony with it. The cultural landscape looks like a troll just took all the houses and threw them onto the hills, mountains and around the lakes and fjords.
The towns, well that is another story. A few good examples on the side, towns are not really the places we’d like to visit here. They are only places where people go to buy stuff, go to work or go to school. And occasionally for some cultural activities and socializing.
Our town is no exception unfortunately. As a place where boats could land easily and farming was relatively good it became a trading place in the centre of the Islands. A little harbour and a farm grew out to be an important trading settlement and even got city status after the law change in 1997.
After several bridges where build to connect the Islands, dynamics changed, but the borders of the municipalities stayed as if the harbours where still the centres. This brings some challenges for our maintenance and surveying colleagues who have to travel a lot to cover the whole area of the municipality.
Lately our town became an official region centre, with approximately 5.000 residents in the town and a little over 10.000 in the whole municipality. Though the original farm still exists, providing a rare green breathing space in the centre of the town, other farms are located further away, threatened by the expanding town. However some nearby farms survive and thrive by aiming at authentic small-scale activities, producing delicious local organic products.
While working for the municipality with maps and with some experience in spatial planning I was so lucky to become intensively involved in the process around the new town plan some years ago. Although the project took several years of really hard labour and a lot of press from politicians and management, it was a great experience for the whole team.
As part of the compulsory stakeholder participation process our project team visited all schools to map how the children use their environment. We also had good cooperation with the local media, organised several public meetings and had some exhibitions in the shopping malls. During this process residents became very involved and even started to discuss their wishes and futuristic ideas on social media.
The whole way the town was perceived changed; for most people it was not enough anymore to have some shops with enough parking places. Green areas/corridors, meeting places and infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians became new focus points. The resulting plan got a lot of appreciation, not only in town, but also in the whole spatial planning field.
And thus I witnessed the birth of a new town, or better the conception of this wannabe town, because it still is work in progress.