The development of economic activity in cities must be fostered in a balanced and efficient manner, to encourage employment near housing, in accordance with the capacity of each territory, while at the same time fostering a more efficient use of service infrastructures and natural resources.

    More than half of Catalonia's total production takes place in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The area has a rich and diverse business fabric, with a high level of tertiary specialisation, appropriate to its role as the capital of a much larger economic region, and it supplies not only all of Catalonia, but also much of the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean Euroregion.

    Despite this tertiary specialisation, the metropolitan area has succeeded in maintaining a high level of industrial activity, which is closely related to the productive fabric of the rest of the region and Catalonia, and even some agricultural activity which, although insignificant in terms of its contribution to GDP, is a major asset in terms of sustainability and as a benchmark for a new model of a circular economy based on proximity.<

    The various economic activities in the region have occupied different spaces depending on their needs and production characteristics, and the availability of land and indoor space. This situation has often led to problems for the population or for the environment. Examples include the displacement of industrial activities by services aimed at the population in many specialised areas, the establishment of the advanced tertiary sector in residential blocks in many town centres, the absorption of industrial areas by residential fabrics, low levels of accessibility on public transport to some centres of activity that create high levels of mobility among their workers, and low levels of accessibility to the high-capacity road network and to the railway freight network.
    First, processes of digitisation and exchange of information are creating new productive activities and new areas generating knowledge and activities. In this context, in order to make sure these areas function correctly, proper planning is required to ensure the most appropriate location for the various uses and activities, while avoiding negative competition between the various metropolitan stakeholders and users.

    At the same time, a process of increasing openness to outside the metropolitan area is taking place, and involves the movement of people, the movement of goods and monetary flows. However, this internationalisation, while positive, also creates a number of challenges. On the one hand, there are the challenges arising from environmental impacts, because of the land consumed by the infrastructures that make this exchange of flows possible (the port, airport, road and rail network), and the pollution and emissions caused by transport. On the other, there are new demands, which are created when an economic activity expands its area of responsibility in the international arena.

    Finally, the growing collective awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the contemporary way of life in most Western countries has led to the need to implement a new sustainable and circular economic model, based on proximity, with spatial conditions favourable to it. This is not merely a question of providing specific spaces and facilities, but also involves creating environments that facilitate lifestyles and an optimum use of resources to contribute to achieving this model.
In terms of social and economic development, the metropolitan area has several endogenous and exogenous challenges that must be taken into account when considering the new Plan, including:
  • climate change and resource scarcity
  • the energy transition
  • the internationalisation of the economy
  • technological innovations
  • demographic changes
  • changes in economic activity and jobs
  • the renewal of tertiary activities
  • the transformation of productive areas
  • the recovery of agricultural activities
  • the functional specialisation of the territory

In order to overcome these challenges, it is necessary to understand how economic activity is physically established and how it relates to the environment. The metropolitan area contains three different types of territory where economic activity takes place: the agroforestry mosaic, specialised economic activity areas, and the mixed city. Each has its own requirements and characteristics which must be protected and optimised.

Economic Activity
    The agroforestry mosaic economy is highly valuable as a local food system, due to its strategic status in the environmental and social profile, and because of its unique nature and added value.

    The Baix Llobregat Agrarian Park – one of the most productive areas of agricultural land in Catalonia and therefore an important economic asset – is a strategic area for ecological functionality and maintenance in the metropolitan region.

    For these and other reasons, the PDU is working to enhance and reclaim agricultural land, which currently occupies 2,400 hectares and despite 25% of this land being used for non-agricultural uses or having been abandoned, accounts for 3% of the metropolitan population's food consumption.

    Agroforestry Mosaic
    Specialised economic activity areas are a legacy that must be conserved and their competitiveness reinforced. Their characteristics must be acknowledged, and their development must focus on an accurate identification of the potential and opportunities that each area can contribute to the economic fabric as a whole.

    Two types of area are identified and classified: those which are located around high-capacity road corridors, and those that are located in continuity with urban centres. In total, these areas occupy 4,800 hectares and employ 23% of workers in the metropolitan area.


    Specialised land in the corridor, segregated from the residential fabric, is characterised by the high levels of industrial activity that take place there, because they are relatively modern fabrics and they have good access to the high-capacity infrastructure for freight transport, by both road (over 75%) and rail (more than 50%).

    The specialised land adjacent to the residential urban fabric in an urban continuum is ageing, but is also highly accessible to public transport, and contains activities that provide a service for the economic fabric of the central city. Its location places it under heavy pressure for modernisation or transformation.

    The mixed city is a major asset for our society, which benefits from a mixture of the vitality of economic activity and residential uses. However, this mixture requires some delicate proportions of uses and activities. The PDU must ensure these proportions are balanced correctly.

    Stresses arising from competition for uses in urban fabrics between economic activity and residential uses can affect the housing of around 600,000 people, while on the other hand, the jobs of 59% of workers are located in this type of fabric.

The diagnosis of the metropolitan region's social and economic development contains challenges that planning must address according to its general objectives and capacity for action.

After the evaluation and final selection of the various alternatives has been completed, the PDU will be able to address the challenges and outline its proposals.

These proposals are defined in the specific terms of a preliminary document, in the objectives, section, which is divided into four broad categories of contents: structural elements, the agroforestry mosaic, urban fabrics and areas of action.
This map is based on map ‘D.V.03 Functional intensity of urban fabrics', which is part of the graphic material of the Preliminary Document.
Click to see legend.
This map is based on map ‘D.V.07 Road connectivity and rail goods transport', which is part of the graphic material of the Preliminary Document.
Click to see legend.
This map is based on map ‘D.III.01 Structural metropolitan centres', which is part of the graphic material of the Preliminary Document.
Click to see legend.