Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Barcelona: Urban Sprawl


Greenfield sites: Areas on the edge of the city which have never been developed in any way. These provide cheap, unpolluted land, with room for expansion.

Greenbelt: The green belt project in Barcelona aims at creating a continuous network of agricultural land and woodland around the city where development is controlled. The main aim is to prevent urban sprawl.

Changes Causes

  • Change at the city edge

    Car scrap-yards, fields of caravans, car-racing circuits, petrol stations, amusement parks, prisons, teleports, campsites, hotel complexes, golf courses, integrated goods-transport depots, water treatment plants, dumps, all go to make up today's chaotic metropolitan landscape. It is virtually impossible to distinguish between the urban and the rural (or non-urbanisable) land (both visually and legally).

  • Growth of suburbs, e.g. Sant Just Desvern. Mature families move for improved housing and a higher quality of life

  • New shopping malls: e.g. Gran Via 2, taking advantage of an increasing car-shopping culture

  • Airport expansion: to cater for increase in flights, particularly for short-break tourism

  • High-speed rail link to improve infrastructure



  • Threats to greenbelt and countryside
  • High-Tech Park (El Vall├Ęs) and Synchrotron development

  • Out-of-town shopping centres e.g. Caprabo

  • Growth of urbanisations (residential estates) to provide for counter-urbanisation needs

  • New university and business park (Viladecans and Castelldefels)

  • New industrial estates e.g. Sant Boi, Castelldefels

  • Landfill sites (Garraf Natural Park)

  • Limestone quarrying (Garraf Natural Park)

  • Increasing and damaging leisure use (Collserola Park)

  • Increase in forest fires

  • Barcelona's Urban Sprawl (graphics)