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Urban sprawl initiative Parliament and building sector put under pressure

The campaigners brought a plastic lawn and potted trees to Parliament's Square before they handed in the boxes with signatures


Leftwing campaigners say they have gathered more than 135,000 signatures to force a nationwide vote on their proposal to curb urban sprawl. The initiative wants to ban new development zones under certain conditions and promote the creation of environmentally sustainable settlements in cities.

The group, led by the youth chapter of the Green Party, handed in the signatures in a symbolic ceremony in Bern on Friday. The initiative hopes to put pressure on parliament to reform current zoning regulations.

“This marks an important milestone in the fight against urban sprawl,” said Judith Schmutz, co-president of the Young Greens.

She and other speakers briefly recalled the difficulties and discussions with citizens during the 17-month campaign.

The group said it was proud of its effort, achieved chiefly by the Young Greens supported by various environmental organisations and youth chapters of other parties from the left and centre of the political spectrum.

“The initiative will politicise a new generation,” said Ilias Panchard of the Young Greens.

Parliament and the cabinet are due to discuss the proposal before a date is set for a nationwide vote in the next few years.


Launched in April 2015, the proposal seeks to outlaw the zoning of new land development unless the respective surface area is compensated elsewhere. Constructions outside development zones would only be allowed under strict conditions.

The campaigners are also calling on the authorities to promote sustainable lifestyle forms for housing and working in urban areas.

The group says that the surface of built-up areas in Switzerland has increased by 155% between 1935 and 2002, while the population grew 76% over the same time.

It accuses the government of shelving a reform of the zoning regulations to please the construction industry.

Holiday homes

In 2013, Swiss voters largely approved a law, imposing a 15-year freeze on development areas against opposition of the Association of the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, and members the political centre and right.

A year before, a controversial initiative limiting the number of new holiday homes was narrowly approved by voters, creating an upset notably in alpine tourist regions.

It is the second people’s initiative to be handed in to the Federal Chancellery this week and the sixth this year.

In addition, campaigners have submitted their signatures for three referendums, challenging parliamentary decisions by nationwide votes. In two other cases, referendum committees failed to win enough signatures from citizens. 

Urs Geiser,

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