Riga planning region development strategy updates the development of waterfronts and waterways in the metropolitan area

The new spatial development planning documents of the Riga Planning Region – the updated Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 and the Development Programme 2022-2027 – provide a medium-term development perspective for the Riga Region and outline a long-term development vision for the Riga Metropolitan Area. The Riga Functional Space or Riga Metropolitan Area is seen as a space of economic and social movement functionally closely linked to the capital, consisting of the city of Riga and neighboring towns of various sizes and municipalities of the Baltic Sea Region, which have a solid daily commuting population.

Respecting the importance of the functional area of Riga as a whole, the solutions of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 include a broader vision of development beyond the borders of the planning region – within the functional area, especially in areas such as transport and mobility, settlement and public services, planning of nature and recreation areas, tourism, etc., which have a strong territorial-functional rather than administrative character. The spatial structure of the region’s settlement, its transport and mobility infrastructure, and its natural and recreational potential are the key cornerstones of the region’s development, forming the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of its development.

Development of Riga’s waterfronts — together with the NGOs!

The regional strategy emphasizes the potential of the Riga region’s natural areas, which can be seen as part of an integrated living space and serve as a living environment and resource, part of a cultural space with significant recreational potential. The forests and green areas that surround the capital provide an ecological balance, creating an alternative urban living and working environment beyond the city limits. Riga’s forests, in combination with the built-up area, create a unique recreational and leisure space for the metropolis. The large rivers, together with coastal waters and lakes, and connecting canals, form a unique radial structure, the potential of which is under-utilized. The water space in the city and suburbs is a place for recreation, local water transport, tourism, and sports development. The regional strategy emphasizes that access to waterfronts should be made as public as possible and that waterside spaces concentrate on valuable natural landscapes, which are a unique asset of the Riga region. 

Of particular importance are the Riga-Pierīga green corridors – areas that form interconnected undeveloped spaces, preserving natural diversity. Such areas should be planned for their interconnection, conservation, and regeneration.

The spatial perspective of the Strategy visualizes the structure of the natural areas of the Riga region, including the most important historical, cultural, and landscape spaces. The emphasis is on the rivers’ natural and cultural landscape space, which includes the downstream areas of the three major rivers – the Daugava, the Lielupe, and the Gauja. The regional strategy sets out guidelines that prioritize the use of the natural, cultural, and historic landscape space for the conservation and use of assets for the development of place identity, tourism, and recreation.

The planning process needs to provide for the use of the waterfronts for the needs of the community – to provide access, to provide movement opportunities along the waterfronts, to plan for the location of bathing facilities, etc. Ensure that the landscape-ecological functions of rivers are preserved, without activities that could endanger them. Prioritize the use of river valleys for recreation and sustainable tourism, ensuring accessibility of river banks. Plan for a shared water system infrastructure between Riga and the Baltic Sea Region that is accessible to the public and usable for recreation and tourism.

The Sustainable Development Strategy of the Riga Planning Region emphasizes the potential of water not only in the context of the natural environment, but also in the context of mobility, and with a long-term development perspective. Taking into account the important role of the Riga region and the whole metropolitan area in promoting the growth of Latvia, the updated strategy of the region, in addition to the already existing development objectives and spatial perspective up to 2030, also provides a vision for the long term – up to 2050.

This vision is largely based on the integration of different development areas, providing insights into the longer term and incorporating development ideas for the region that do not currently appear in national-level development plans, but at the same time can make an important contribution to the development of a new sustainable development strategy for Latvia beyond 2030.

The region’s strategy includes the development of an extensive and integrated network of inland and coastal waterway connections, which is reflected both in the transport infrastructure development section of the region’s spatial perspective and in the region’s long-term development vision for 2050. In the future development of the overall mobility infrastructure, the Riga-Pierīga water connections, which have great potential for development, should also play a role, both for passenger transport and recreational purposes. The network of inland waterways along the coasts and large rivers should function in a coherent way with the rest of the transport and mobility infrastructure, providing for the development of regional mobility points in a coherent network with water transport routes. The regional strategy sets a long-term target for green mobility of at least 3/4 of total mobility behavior, meaning the use of public transport, micro-mobility as well as water transport.

The new development plans of the Riga Planning Region – Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 and Development Programme 2022-2027 – can be found on the region’s website www.rpr.gov.lv under Darbibas jomas – >Attistibas planosana >- Sabiedribas lidzdaliba https://rpr.gov.lv/darbibas-jomas/attistibas-planosana/sabiedribas-lidzdaliba/