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01 February 2024

Upgrading to a smart city: adopting the Urbanism Code

The smart city concept has been a topic of much debate and several legal instruments, such as the New Leipzig Charter or the Pact of Amsterdam. Nevertheless, robust legal support from the Romanian government is needed to transpose the European decisions and to narrow the gap between innovative ideas and their implementation.

A smart city means technologies that facilitate everyday life, with plenty of green and efficient spaces. Many recent worldwide regulations focus on climate-related aspects. For smart cities to work in Romania, new legislative provisions are needed, including in relation to urban planning.

Romania's urban planning legislation has undergone many changes, leading to fragmentation and incoherence. The poor correlation of normative acts, legislative voids, open-ended provisions and deficient legislative techniques have necessitated the launch of the Land Development, Urban Planning and Construction Code project (the "Code"), which aims to unite the provisions of several normative acts.

Inspired by new regulations promoting the "15-minute city", the Code stipulates that public authorities are obliged to create new green spaces and to ensure access to them within a maximum of 15 minutes' walk from living areas.

The Romanian Government also recently adopted the National Integrated Urban Development Strategy for resilient, green, inclusive and competitive cities 2022-2035, comprising measures for improving the quality of the urban environment through public space planning and the development of green space networks.

In recent years, AI, IoT, digitalisation and the introduction of new technologies have all played a major role in changing the paradigm in Romania. To keep up to date, the Code introduces new IT platforms intended to ensure the operational activity of local public administration and the digital integration of spatial planning and urban planning documentation and construction works authorisation.

Although there is a long way to go before smart cities come to Romania, the systematisation of its legislation by simplifying the legislative framework is a big step forward, enabling more sustainable urban development. While further amendments are certainly expected, the hope is that the Code will be adopted in 2024.

authors: Mădălina Mitan, Alexandra Huza, Florina Chirilă