Institutional and political constraints to planning sustainable settlements in suburban municipalities case of Tallinn, Estonia
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This thesis addresses the recent phenomenon of urban sprawl in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, and tries to find its institutional and political reasons. Urban sprawl is seen as a type of suburbanization which lacks sustainability. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the EUformulated sustainable spatial development policy implementation by local authorities in Tallinn suburbs and to understand why an implementation gap exists. The two main research questions are: (1) To what extent does spatial planning related to housing development in suburban municipalities follow the principles of sustainable development? (2) What factors do influence the policy implementation by local governments? The case study strategy is selected with Tallinn conurbation as a single case and four selected suburban municipalities as separate units of analysis. In order to identify the tentative factors that affect implementation of the EU policy, the model of policy implementation developed by Van Meter and Van Horn (1975) is applied. It frames the analysis of causal links between the dependent and independent variables. The dependent variable is defined as the extent of sustainability in local spatial development policies. The independent variables are those local political and institutional factors that may vary across municipalities. They are divided into two groups: (1) factors pertaining to local government itself, and (2) factors pertaining to local government’s horizontal communication in spatial planning. The two hypothesis set out in the thesis relate to the independent variables. Besides this, the study also considers such general factors as policy content, its vertical communication, and the national institutional and socio-political framework. The research shows that there is a variation among local authorities in terms of how much their spatial development policies contribute to achievement of the sustainable development goals. The findings demonstrate that none of the investigated factors separately may contribute to implementation of the policy, but only a particular constellation of them. Most important factors appeared to be consensus among politicians, knowledgeable and enthusiastic leadership, and most necessarily, good disposition to the policy among local politicians and officials. Financial resources may play for or against sustainability depending on a combination of other factors. Also good horizontal communication of local authority with civic society, business actors and other public institutions increases sustainability. The important finding is that the nature of the policy and the national framework in Estonia considerably complicate policy implementation.