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Project results Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF)

The Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF) project has published its findings after 3 years of research. The conducted research is informed by practical projects demonstrating how the urban fringe (outskirts urban land) can make a real contribution to sustainable development in our city regions. The project is part of the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme and partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund. In total, 13 project partners from 5 countries worked together, exchanging knowledge on the effective management and development of the urban fringe.

The findings highlight the need for specific policy to address urban fringe development and management; acknowledging the positive economic, social and environmental potential of these areas where urban meets rural. The Connecting Urban and Rural report sets out a series of local, regional and European policy recommendations that seek to make positive changes to the urban fringe, recognizing how they can add value to the quality of life in urban and rural areas. The project also revealed effective approaches and practices which allow urban fringe areas to be developed and efficiently managed. Soft governance approaches proved to be successful enablers for urban fringe projects.


SURF identified an overarching need to create specific urban fringe policy at a national and regional level; policy that is not limited to either urban or rural policy, but is able to flex with the needs of multifunctional urban fringe areas. Such policy needs to be built into local policy and governance methods to enable urban fringe projects to be efficiently integrated into the greater ambitions of city regions, the report concludes. 


EU involvement of the SURF Project

The Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF) Project is part of the Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme and is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Capitalisation has formed part of the project building on existing learning from current and previous European projects. In addition, SURF has sought to liaise with European Networks such as PURPLE and relevant current European projects in the development of project outputs. The project has also disseminated information on project learning at a range of events across Europe. A representative of the European Commission, DG REGIO was a key speaker at the project Final Conference at the launch of the project findings in 2012.


Toolkit for Urban Fringe Management

The Toolkit for Urban Fringe Management brings together the most promising tools and approaches that were successfully used in the development of a range of practical urban fringe projects in 5 countries across Europe. The toolkit offers examples of innovative uses of tools to inspire local and regional authorities dealing with the complex challenges in their urban fringes, recognising how these can contribute to sustainable development in urban fringe areas. 

Included in the Toolkit are:

  • descriptions of the tools 
  • the context in which they are used
  • success and failure factors
  • contact information to learn (more) about the tool


These tools are divided into two different categories:

  1. building networks between stakeholders in the urban fringe area
  2. creating synergy between different qualities in the area


Organisation of the SURF Project

The Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF) project was coordinated by Aberdeen City Council (UK). Research and Analysis was led by Leeds Metropolitan University (UK) working with Saxion University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands). Project Implementation and Review was coordinated by the City of Enschede (Netherlands) with learning gathered from practical urban fringe projects developed over the course of the project in Aberdeen, Antwerp, Almelo, Bradford, Enschede, East Flanders, Hengelo, Hamburg, Harryda, Norfolk, West Flanders.


More information and contact

Please e-mail Kevin Thomas from the Leeds Metropolitan University.