Urban development

The centres of many Norwegian cities/towns and peri-urban communities have undergone positive development in recent decades. In many places, such centres are still characterised by a lack of planning, however, often with long distances between different services.

Many Norwegian urban and peri-urban areas have experienced strong growth in the number of inhabitants and workplaces in recent decades. The greatest growth can be seen in the big and medium-sized cities/towns, but also many smaller towns and peri-urban areas have experienced growth. There is much to indicate that this development will continue in the coming years. Proximity to markets, competence centres and access to qualified labour mean that the cities/towns play an increasingly important role in developing business and industry and in value creation.

Attractive urban and peri-urban areas with a good physical environment, a well-functioning transport system and varied cultural and leisure activities attract new business and generate financial growth.

The centres of many Norwegian cities/towns and peri-urban communities have undergone positive development in recent decades. In many places, such centres are still characterised by a lack of planning, however, often with long distances between different services. 

Shops have moved to car-based shopping centres far from town centres, while housing is built in areas with limited public transport services, which makes travel without a car difficult. Such urban sprawling leads to increased transport requirements and dependence on cars and reduces the possibility of using public transport, cycling or walking.

Increased densification and transformation, a more efficient and attractive public transport system and facilities for cycling and walking are necessary to achieve sustainable urban and peri-urban area development. Transport requirements and the dependence on cars can be reduced through siting shops, offices and houses in central areas or a short distance from public transport hubs.

There is still a big densification potential in most urban and peri-urban areas, and existing built-up areas can be utilised to a considerably greater extent than today. Densification should take place without encroaching on productive agricultural areas and displacing other traditional land use, and without affecting valuable scenery or important cultural environments.

How cities/towns develop will significantly affect the possibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This applies to transport solutions, land use, energy for heating and waste handling. Many of the most important measures to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will also contribute to improving urban and peri-urban environments.

Urban and peri-urban areas shall provide all population groups with opportunities for social and physical recreation and participation in social life. At the same time as areas are being more densely populated, it is important to preserve outdoor areas of sufficient size and quality where people live. This is especially important in relation to children and young people, elderly people and people with functional impairments. In many places, there is also a need to develop informal meeting places and varied housing and care services in central locations.

Outdoor recreation areas and coherent green structures are important for natural diversity and outdoor pursuits in urban and peri-urban areas. Water is an important part of green structures, and open rivers, streams and other water bodies provide increased quality of experience and natural diversity. These are also good climate adaptation measures.

Quality densification, where considerations for history, cultural environments, aesthetics and functional needs are safeguarded, is a precondition for good urban and peri-urban development. Older built-up areas provide opportunities for developing unique and attractive housing through densification and transformation, often combined with new architecture.

Where the old meets the new, there are exciting opportunities for development, at the same time as it is important to ensure the quality of both old and new buildings.  The physical and social qualities of communities and environments have become important motives for moving. Active efforts to accommodate new inhabitants from Norway and abroad are increasingly important in the work to enhance the attractiveness of cities/towns and communities.

Climate change will have a significant impact on the planning and development of our urban and peri-urban areas. A rise in sea level means that urban and peri-urban areas along the coast must be developed to be able to handle a higher coastline, and increasing and more intense precipitation means that the challenge of handling rainwater and surface water is growing in many big towns.

Urban development in figures

As a whole, Norway has a low population density. Nearly 80 per cent of the country’s inhabitants live in peri-urban areas, however, with an average population density of more than 1,600 inhabitants per square kilometre. In the peri-urban area centres, where large areas of land are also used for business and industry, the population density is more than twice that figure, and it has increased by 400 inhabitants per square kilometre in the past ten years. The concentration of inhabitants and workplaces in central areas is largely a result of densification.

Many Norwegian cities/towns and peri-urban areas are surrounded by productive agricultural and forest land. Of Norway’s land, only 3 per cent is cultivated and only 1.3 per cent is suitable for food grain production. On a per capita basis, agricultural land in Norway has decreased and land used for food grain production is lower than the European average. The fact that much of the best land is situated in the areas with the highest development pressure is a major challenge in the management of these areas.

Although there has been a slight reduction in the reallocation of cultivable land in recent years, reallocation is still higher than the goal of halving the annual reallocation of the most valuable agricultural resources seen in relation to the period 1995 to 2004.

A total of 1,300 hectares of cultivated and cultivable land was reallocated for purposes other than agriculture in 2009.