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1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >

Suburban Ecological Restoration by Vocational Training Centres, Barcelona (Spain)

Para consultar la versión castellana de este documento, pulse aquí.

Reference Date: 26-07-98

Experience selected in the 1998 Dubai Award for Best Practice, and catalogued as GOOD. ( Best Practices Database.)
País/Country: Spain

United Nations Region: Europe
Ecological region: Continental
Activity: City/Town
Partnerships: Local government, Central government, County Council (province of Barcelona), Community-Based organization CBO

Themes = Children and Youth: 10 years to adult; community support programmes; education and vocational training (including day care and after school care; environmental programmes with a youth focus. Civic Engagement and Cultural Vitality: civic education; community participation. Environmental Management: ecological sustainability; environmental remediation; pollution reduction; urban greening.

Main contact:
Tomás Carrión Bernal
Town Hall of Santa Coloma de Gramanet
Plaza de la Vila, 1
Santa Coloma de Gramenet
Tel: +34-93 386 00 50
Fax: +34-93 466 00 67

Eduardo Luzarraga
Ministry of Labour an Social Affairs (Central government)
Parc Estació del Nord, s/n
08013 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 265 65 56
Fax: +34-93 247 09 04
Financial Support

Antoni Montseny
Diputación de Barcelona County Council (province of Barcelona)
Comte d'Urgell, 187
08042 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 402 24 83/ +34-93 402 22 22
Fax: +34-93 402 24 93
Financial Support

Pedro Mármol
Agrupacion de Vecinos de Can Franquesa (Community-Based organization)
CP Pompeu Fabra. C/Menorca, s/n
Santa Coloma de Gramenet
08924 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 391 66 64
Fax: +34-93 466 00 67
Community participation

Nominating Organization
Marta García Nart
Spanish National Committee
Paseo de la Castellana 67
28071 Madrid
Tel: +34-91 597 75 72
Fax: +34-91 597 86 04

Key Dates

November 1994: Start of Vocational Training Centre "Besós-Marina"
October 1995: Restoration of the Fuente de la Encina Spring
April 1996: Construction of Can Calvet Park and La Bastida Scenic Vantage Point
December 1996: Start of Vocational Training Centre "Serralada de Marina"
December 1997: Construction of the "Serralada de Marina" Scenic Vantage Point
December 1998: Completion of the works (Restoration of the San Roque Spring and construction of the Picnic Area at Fuente de la Encina Spring)


Santa Coloma de Gramenet is a municipality of some 133,000 inhabitants located within the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, well on its way to sustainability. In the 60's a heavy wave of immigration led to largely unplanned urban growth.
This had serious impact on the surrounding natural area, deforestation and pollution by solid wastes.
Santa Coloma has a very dense urban area, a marked lack of green zones and a young population with a high rate of unemployment and great difficulties in accessing professionally qualified jobs.

Against this backdrop, in 1994 the Town Hall set up the Suburban Ecological Restoration Programme, undertaken by two successive Vocational Training centres which successfully achieved the following goals:

This experience establishes a novel strategy for environmental restoration involving the education, training and employment of young people along with the participation of civic groups to ensure that the fruits of the work carried out prove to be of lasting benefit. A new kind of relationship is established between the town hall and its citizens. On all sides attitudes have changed and enhanced awareness of environmental problems has been made patent.

This plan of action can be applied to any city having limited financial resources, high human potential and a natural environment worth conserving for generations to come.


1. Situation Before the Initiative Began
In 1994, after the participation of over a hundred civic entities of the community, the Town Hall of Santa Coloma de Gramenet approved the Framework Document for the Improvement and Protection of the Environment in Santa Coloma de Gramenet 1995-2000.
This document follows the guidelines of the Local Agenda 21 and defines the strategy for integrated environmental management in this municipality located within the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, well on its way to sustainability.

Santa Coloma de Gramenet has an area of 7.2 sq. km of which 3.9 sq. km are urban areas and the rest is wooded, where there are still spaces preserving a certain ecological value (woods, natural springs, vantage points, rest areas, etc.)

Between the fifties and the seventies a heavy wave of immigration led to largely unplanned urban growth. The urban area is particularly dense (34,000 inhabitants/sq. km), with a marked lack of green zones and high human pressure on the green belt.

The population - 133,000 inhabitants in 1994 - is broadly working class, with a low cultural level.
The unemployment rate is over 10% and there is a large percentage of young people, between 16 and 25 years, among whom the most pressing problems are unemployment and lack of career qualifications.

Santa Coloma de Gramenet is a municipality with few resources, given its lack of industries. This fact led to the necessity of establishing partnerships to develop city projects.

The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, through the National Employment Institute INEM and by means of the Programmes for Vocational Training Centres, has collaborated during the last decade in financing several projects of urban renewal and creation of social and cultural infrastructures.

The County Council of Barcelona, which brings together all the municipalities of Barcelona giving technical and financial support to municipal initiatives, has created the Network of Towns and Villages for Sustainability, of which Santa Coloma is a promoter township.

In essence, the Suburban Ecological Restoration Programme undertaken by Vocational Training Centres is designed to give a solution to the following environmental and social problems:

  1. Uncontrolled waste tips in the urban fringe areas, which reappear despite the Administration's efforts to clean them up.
  2. The need for green belt and leisure space in the town.
    Unemployment and young people with no professional qualifications.
  3. The need for citizen awareness of environmental problems in order to change attitudes.
Preparing Information and Clarifying Priorities

Deterioration of the suburban areas and unemployment of young people come together in a moment in which the community calls for integrated management of social and environmental aspects enhancing the quality of life and access to the labour market.

The Town Hall of Santa Coloma took the initiative, presenting between 1994 and 1998 two projects to create Environmental Vocational Training Centres which were approved by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs through the Provincial Head Office
of National Employment Institute in Barcelona.

The County Council of Barcelona came into the process with technical and financial support for the execution of specific actions.

Neighbours' Organisations played an active role from the beginning, designing the projects together with the engineers, cleaning up the uncontrolled rubbish tips, planting trees, and taking part in the later maintenance of the recovered sites, thus increasing their durability.


The definition of the priority actions is made initially from Santa Coloma Town Hall, taking up the citizens' demands in recent
years and checking this information with other synergetic projects. These priorities can be summarised in:

  1. The need to act urgently and integrally on the deterioration of the urban fringe area, changing attitudes with participation of the community.
  2. Increasing the young people's ability to gain access to the labour market by means of specialised training programmes.

2. Formulation of Objectives, Strategies and Mobilization of Resources
The creation of the Vocational Training Centres "Besós-Marina" (1994-1996) and "Serralada de Marina" (1996-1998) had three principal objectives:

The Vocational Training Centres are structured in different training modules for the student workers:

The Department of Environment of the Town Hall of Santa Coloma takes on the political and technical initiative formulating objectives and developing the implementation of the programme. Its action is supported in the Inter-departmental Commission of the Environment CIMA, which ensures the exchange of environmental information within the municipal structure and between the Town Hall and the community.

The actions started in 1994, creating the Vocational Training Centre "Besós-Marina", which was financed by the National Employment Institute INEM. The Diputacion de Barcelona supports technically and financially the project.

After a period of theoretical initial training for the student workers, the first three actions planned in the Programme were started up to their completion in 1996.

In 1995 was planned a second project for a Vocational Training Programme ("Serralada de Marina") which started actions in 1996, planning to terminate in December 1998.

Civic leaders have led communication processes among the residents which has allowed the actions to be integrated into the dynamic of the various neighbourhoods.

3. Process

The main difficulty - the availability of financial resources for the development of the Programme - was overcome thanks to the
collaboration of the partners. The programme was also confronted with added difficulties:

  1. The real capacity of the young student workers to create lasting structures of quality in the new restored sites. They were given specific training in matters of quality work to overcome this difficulty. The interventions were carefully
    designed to minimise the cost of carrying them out and maintenance and maximise durability. Mediterranean trees and shrubs were used for the plantings, avoiding grass and lawns and other solutions costly to maintain and of low
  2. The necessity for involving the social fabric in the modification of behaviour and thus in the lasting benefit of the actions. Thus social agents had to be involved in the early phases of the projects, that is to say, when the decisions had
    to be made.
  3. The real possibility of improving access to the labour market for the young people taking part in the experience. For this, the labour market was studied in the fields of building, gardening and forestry work. Experts from the Administration itself also took part, advising and reinforcing the self-employment initiatives of the student workers.

4. Results Achieved

In 1998, this Programme has arrived to its final stage. Of the six actions scheduled, four have been finalised and two are in their last phases:


We think that this Programme is a fine example of the role of the Environment Vocational Training Centres as powerful instruments in the recovery of the natural and cultural heritage in Spain,
especially in those municipalities with few financial resources of their own, but with great human potential.
At the same time, there has been a noteworthy change in the relationship between the citizen and Local Government, established through incorporating local civic entities in the taking of decisions. We believe that this experience has shown the need to set up mechanisms of partnership for the carrying out of environmental initiatives in towns and villages with a marked environmental interest, high human potential and few financial resources in order to move towards sustainability.

The community in the taking of decisions

A change of attitude and perception of environmental problems has been observed in the local community. New relationships have been established (through regular contact and working meetings) between the community and the government, which allow decisions to be made and movement towards sustainability with small but decided steps.
Santa Coloma Town Hall has taken as a model for the decision-making the form used for this experimental programme, for urban and environmental actions involving all the social and
financial agents.


The Suburban Ecological Restoration Programme has reduced the cost of eliminating uncontrolled waste tips in urban fringe areas. This is, then, an indirect rather than a direct system of recovering environmental costs.
The quality of life has been improved for around 45,000 people who have access directly to the new leisure areas created.
There has also been a reduction of impact on the wooded area, in diverting the pressure of people towards these new leisure areas. The situation of the flora and fauna in the area has been improved.
Squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, which had disappeared from the area of the Fuente de la Encina Spring, have returned to this spot in 1997. A pattern of urban fringe park has been established which respects the environment, with natural materials, treated to increase their resistance, and the plants natural to the area,
which consume less water than town gardens with lawns and exotic plants.
The involvement of the local people has meant that the tasks of maintenance of the new spaces have been taken on without an impossible financial charge on the local administration.
Direct employment has been created and indirectly in the market of environmental companies.
At the present time the promotion and creation of maintenance companies is under study (co-operatives, etc.) formed by the student workers themselves at the end of their training period.
Learnt Lessons

  1. Tight co-operation between the Civic Organisations and the Local Authority is needed before carrying out the initiatives, making sure that the proposals and suggestions of the
    community are received and studied.
  2. Ensuring the viability of the project by planning actions at moderate cost, at the micro-urban and micro-environment level, working for a cumulative effect of local actions towards a
    global idea.
  3. Not to create false expectations among the community. The proposals introduced and agreed have to be carried out. Efforts have been made at all times to avoid a feeling of frustration in the community and in local leaders.
  4. In other Vocational Training projects in the rest of Spain and Catalonia the main value has been the easy and clear relationship with the student workers, helping them with the difficulties of getting into the labour market.
  5. The need to comply with undertakings established from the promoting entity with the sharing sponsors in order to ensure mutual respect and the viability of new actions on the basis of that compliance.

We'd like to think that this experience can be applied to other cities with high population density, surrounded by natural areas worth conserving for generations to come.

Since 1994, through the Framework Document for the Improvement and Protection of the Environment (1996), later with the signature of the Aalborg Charter and now in 1998 with the process of the Environmental Audit (towards the Action Plan and
Local Agenda 21), Santa Coloma de Gramenet shows a new way to understand local action on the environment, through :

5. The experience in numbers

Cost and financing of the activity

Total of investment: 264,000,000 pesetas

Contribution of each of the associates :


"Los alumnos de la Escuela-Taller Besós-Marina recuperan espacios naturales en Santa Coloma" ( Gramenet 2000; February, 1995)

"La escuela Besós Marina" ( Mes Coloma,February 1995)

"S'inaugura una nova Font de l'Alzina" (Gramenet 2000 October, 1995.)

"Remodelada la fuente de la Encina" ( Mes Coloma; December, 1995)

"Recuperem les nostres fonts naturals de muntanya" ( Mes Coloma; December, 1995)

"Dos nuevas escuelas taller" ( Mes Coloma; March, 1996)

"L'Escola-Taller Besós-Marina clou el curs recuperant dos espais urbans" ( El Punt April 27th, 1996)

"Una quinzena dels seixanta joves de l'escola Besós Marina ja tenen feina" ( El Punt; April 29th, 1996)

Marta Membrives "Molts joves s'apunten a la campanya de voluntaris per a la prevenció d'incendis" El Punt; July 7th, 1996

Marta Membrives"Santa Coloma prepara els seus boscos per evitar els focs de l'estiu" (El Punt; July 7th, 1996)

R.M. "Renace el Consorcio de la Serra de Marina" ( El Periódico; July 12th, 1996)

Eva M. Gómez "El Consorci neix amb la voluntat de fer-se notar mentre redacta el pla de la Serralada" ( El Punt; July 13th, 1996)

"Consorci de la Serralada Marina" ( Eco; July 13th, 1996)

M.B."Constituido un consorcio para impulsar la creación del parque natural de Marina" (El País; July 14th, 1996)

Marta Membrives "Les dues noves Escoles-Taller esperen la confirmació del Ministeri per començar" (El Punt; Setember 20th, 1996)

Marta Membrives "La nova Escola-Taller de Medi Ambient començará a funcionar el 9 de desembre" (El Punt; November 23th, 1996)

Laura García "Cent persones rebran formació ocupacional en dues Escoles-Taller a Santa Coloma de Gramenet" ( El Punt; November 28th, 1996)

Marta Membrives "Les noves Escoles-Taller de Medi Ambient i construcció comencen a funcionar avui" ( El Punt; December 9th, 1996)

David Saura"El recinte Torribera pot tenir un punt d'informació sobre el parc de la Serra de Marina" ( El Punt; March 22th, 1997)

R.M. "Un nuevo mirador para Can Franquesa" ( El Periódico; March 30th, 1997)

David Saura "El consorci parc de la Serralada de Marina contracta onze guaites per prevenir els incendis" ( El Punt; May 27th, 1997)

David Saura "L'Escola-Taller Serralada de Marina començará en els próxims dies l'execució del mirador" ( El Punt; May 30th, 1997)

"Las escuelas taller Can Manent y Serralada de Marina forman y dan trabajo a un centenar de jóvenes" ( L'Ajuntament Informa; May 30th, 1997)

David Saura "Consorci de la Serralada de Marina tindrá a l'octubre l'estudi que definirá el futur del parc" (El Punt; August 3th, 1997)

Raquel Begines "L'Ajuntament i la UB signaran un conveni per a la recuperació del puig Castellar" ( El Punt; October 9th, 1997)

Laura García "La masia de Torribera es convertirá en una porta d'entrada a la Serralada de Marina" ( El Punt; November 15th, 1997)

Rosa Martos "Santa Coloma tindrá llest el parc del riu Besós el mes de desembre de 1998" ( El Periódico; December 3th, 1997)

R.M."Un mirador para Can Franquesa" ( El Periódico; January 31th, 1998)

R.M. "Apertura del parque de Can Franquesa" ( La Vanguardia; February 1th, 1998)

Laura García "El Consorci de la Serralada de Marina destina 22 milions per a la millora d'espais naturals" ( El Punt; February 2th, 1998)

"El parque Mirador de la Serralada de Marina, a punto de inaugurar" ( EL MERCAT de Santa Coloma; February 5th, 1998)

L.G."Les Escoles-Taller de Medi Ambient han recollit 850 tones de residus a la muntanya en els últims tres anys" ( El Punt; March 25th, 1998)

Este documento se ha editado a partir de una versión inglesa.
Revisado por Ricardo García.

1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
Búsqueda | Buenas Prácticas | Documentos | Boletín CF+S | Novedades | Convocatorias | Sobre la Biblioteca | Buzón/Mailbox
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio