A conference organized by the Environment DG of the European Commission was held on 5 April 2019 at the EESC (European Economic and Social Committee): Brownfield redevelopment in the EU.

Brownfields are sites that have been affected by the former uses of the site and the surrounding land; are derelict or underused; have real or perceived contamination problems; are mainly in developed urban areas; require intervention to bring them back to beneficial use. In other words, urban or urbanized abandoned areas with pollution problems according to the rules on land reclamation and remediation.

With this conference, the European Commission aimed to promote brownfield redevelopment as a solution to limit urban sprawl, land take and soil sealing. During the day, inspiring policies, challenges and good practices for brownfield redevelopment were presented by European, regional and local stakeholders and the potential offered by EU funds was explored.

Attempting to recover soil that has been mistreated, suffocated and polluted has a very high and unaffordable economic cost that is impossible or at least difficult to sustain. The conference focused on these issues, trying to identify and recommend possible solutions, for example by extending the PPP (Public Private Partnership) approach to include a fourth P (people).

We therefore applaud this iniziative: a summary of the conference with the outline of problems and solutions is set out below.

As the proverb says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We therefore continue to “save what can be saved” without holding those who have created or tolerated these situations responsible. Maybe it would be possible to devise legislation that would hold those who use the urban or urbanized areas responsible for the recovery of brownfield sites. It’s not a question of punishing those who have been obliged to abandon those areas but rather of devising forms of prevention, such as funds set aside to be used later, or special types of insurance. Hundreds of abandoned industrial warehouses now cover huge areas of once fertile land, especially in lowland agricultural areas. Attempts are rarely made to recover those areas for productive rather than leisure use, a task that is generally left to farmers themselves.

Could this be the subject of a further conference?