The Case for Policy Intervention in Land Use Change: A Critical Assessment

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Recent urbanisation trends are frequently characterised by spatial fragmentation and scatteredness, as urbanised territories are distributed in space at irregular intervals. In this article, it is argued that such irregularities in spatial distribution result, at least in part, from the absence of a specific policy design about land use. Soil, in fact, is a public good, finite and non-reproducible. As such, soil management requires well-defined policies preventing misuse and excessive soil consumption for economic sustainability. The case for policy intervention is discussed in relation to the Italian context. On the one hand, it is argued that a sufficient knowledge of the phenomenon is a fundamental prerequisite for policy design. Accordingly, commonly agreed measures of soil use should be available for the whole country on a territorial level. On the other hand, the causes of soil use change should be identified. In particular, a relevant issue to be addressed is to what extent changes in soil use are driven by actual housing demand and then, in turn, by population growth. There is evidence, in fact, showing that changes in soil use are driven by the demand for real estate investments. Consequently, land use policies are required to take into account the social costs of land transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-223
Number of pages7
JournalItalian Journal of Agronomy
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Land Use


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