Sustainable development plan passed by Venice City Council

After much debate and many revisions, Venice City Council voted in favour of a plan for the future development of the territory in the early hours of 1 February 2012. A majority vote in favour of the plan was achieved despite demonstrations outside the Venice City Council building and disturbances inside that led to suspensions of Council discussions while security services were called.

Piano di assetto del territorio (PAT) primarily legislates for construction in the area of Tessera on the mainland bordering the Venetian lagoon (see the map below). Construction in the 50 hectare area of Tessera will include a sports stadium, hotels, a casino and adjacent buildings and infrastructure. PAT also addresses the redevelopment of the industrial zones at Marghera next to the lagoon and the creation of managed woodland.

However, PAT only establishes the overall framework with the details to be decided through individual plans of intervention for each specific project. Even though PAT legislates for the construction listed above, it does not specify how many spectators the stadium will hold, how many rooms hotels will include or the specific services of the casino. It is expected that the size and extent of these projects will face considerable future contestation given the opposition already evident against PAT.

Indeed, organisations that have campaigned against PAT have already won concessions. Notably, the construction of an underground subway train system for Venice is no longer mentioned in PAT. The subway proposal has been replaced by a reference to providing “fast connections” between Tessera and the Fondamenta Nuove area in Venice (see the map below). Debate over the plans of intervention will determine what these connections consist of. Similarly, following proposals from local citizens’ committees, PAT has adopted a ban on big ships that are not “compatible with the environment” passing through St Mark’s basin in the Venetian lagoon (the waters in front of St Mark’s Square). Yet PAT does not offer any alternative projects for cruise ship passengers.

None of these compromises to environmental demands should come as a surprise given that “PAT fixes objectives and conditions of sustainability of the interventions”, as reported by Michele Fullin in the Venetian daily newspaper Il Gazzettino di Venezia on 31 January 2012:


As explained in my new book, Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality (UPA 2012), Venice needs development and modernisation, not sustainable development that compromises the future of the city. PAT falls far short of the ten point plan to develop Venice outlined in this book. Despite this, the debates about the plans for the specific interventions provide opportunities to exert pressure for real development instead of sustainable development.

Map of Venice, the Venetian Lagoon and Islands (created by Alex Standish):

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