The PGM (Metropolitan General Plan) has defined urban regulation and covered the region since 1976. However, it has been amended more than 1,200 times to meet the needs arising at each particular point in time.

    The population of the metropolitan area of Barcelona doubled between the 1950s and the 1980s. Despite the population remaining relatively stable over the last four decades, a number of demographic phenomena have affected its characteristics and location. At the same time, economic activities experienced a process of major territorial growth, transformation and expansion. Both processes have had significant effects on land occupancy, involving not only physical impacts but also effects on the functionality of the metropolitan system.

    The 36 municipalities in the metropolitan area of Barcelona have been provided with various urban planning instruments in order to address these changing circumstances. The 27 municipalities that made up the former Metropolitan Corporation have been subject to the Metropolitan General Plan (PGM) since 1976. Seven of the other nine municipalities have a General Urban Plan (PGO) and two have a more recent Municipal Urban Plan (POUM).

    However, most urban planning instruments are today showing their age. Over the four decades since its approval, and despite the more than 1,200 amendments to it, many of the provisions of the PGM have become obsolete, either because the socio-economic and environmental conditions have changed, or because some aspects that have become more important over time were given insufficient emphasis. Although it is more recent, there is also a need to update the contents of the planning of the other municipalities in the metropolitan area and ensure its consistency with the rest of the territory in some cases.

    The need to review the ten general planning instruments, which organise and classify the metropolitan territory in detail, has been even more apparent since the approval of the Barcelona Metropolitan Territorial Plan in 2010, which defines mobility infrastructure systems, open spaces and settlements for the metropolitan region as a whole on a territorial scale. However, the Territorial Plan also establishes the obligation to draw up a master plan for the metropolitan area of Barcelona, as a prior urban planning instrument for reviewing and adapting the existing urban planning to its specifications.

    The PDU is also obliged to comply with the stipulations of the Law concerning AMB. In this respect, metropolitan planning is not only essential for ensuring the planning and functioning of the metropolitan area, but is also essential for exercising the range of competences assigned to AMB.
    The metropolitan area of Barcelona is a consolidated territory, in which there are not many options for new construction. Most urban development operations must therefore consist of urban renewal or rehabilitation and improving how the territory functions. The PDU is a key instrument in achieving environmental objectives, which call for reflection on the non-transformed natural space from an ecosystem perspective.

    This new instrument must be based on a unique language, which unifies the ten management plans currently in force – the PGM, the seven general plans and the two municipal urban plans – and provides a continuous overview of the metropolitan area. This work also provides the opportunity to establish common definitions of urban concepts.

    The plans have been subject to amendments and specifications over the years, and now contain over 7,000 different classifications. They must now be streamlined by reformulating the existing areas and systems and incorporating new instruments, such as three-dimensional hybridisation, which examine the possibility of the same land being classified for different uses on each floor.

    Furthermore, apart from the number of free spaces and facilities, it is also necessary to evaluate their quality, because they play an important social and ecological role, as they improve the living conditions of the population.

    Finally, the dynamism of today's society needs a regulatory framework that not only adapts to contemporary requirements, but can also be updated continuously based on new demands. The increasingly detailed knowledge of metropolitan needs provided by the growing availability of information and new technologies, must be transferred to planning in order to provide a more efficient urban planning response.

    In order to address these challenges, the PDU offers flexible governance that can be tailored to the different needs in the appropriate territorial area using the relevant instruments. The agreements between AMB and other institutions, coordination with economic and social agents, and the role of a lobby of the Spanish Government and the European Commission are essential in this regard.
Twenty-seven of the thirty-six municipalities in the metropolitan area of Barcelona fall under the umbrella of the PGM, seven have PGO, and two more have their own POUM. All these municipalities are equally important in terms of the regulatory status of their rulings. However, due to the extent and level of occupation of the territory they cover, the volume of population that they contain and above all, the age of the town planning document, the area of the twenty-seven municipalities subject to the PGM has been a benchmark in urban development.

The PDU is the instrument that will be used for planning the metropolitan area in the coming decades. It has an urban development model that integrates contemporary diversity into a shared, ecologically sustainable, economically efficient and socially cohesive project. This model must meet the needs of the metropolitan population, in order to improve its quality of life, based on the capacities of the territory.
    The PDU has broad powers granted by the Law concerning Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB), Law 31/2010 of 3 August, including: defining reserves for general urban planning systems for communications and other infrastructures, community facilities and free spaces; the classification of land; the establishment of criteria for classifying urban and developable land; and the definition of the areas for urban transformation of metropolitan interest and common urban development building regulations.

    Institutional, legal and planning frameworks determine the nature of the Plan, as it is not a territorial, sectoral or strategic plan, and cannot have the level of detail and other stipulations typical of a municipal urban plan, but instead has plenty of scope to improve living conditions in the metropolis. The PDU is therefore an intermediate structural instrument, which must provide an overview of the metropolitan situation and address new challenges and demands.

    Hierarchical scheme
    The Metropolitan Urban Master Plan is an instrument for regulating plans and uses in the territory, assigning intensities to them and determining their standards. It must provide the necessary urban conditions to meet to the new challenges and needs of today's metropolitan reality, including: increasing social diversity, with an ageing and simultaneously better more informed and more demanding population; the emergence of new technologies and their social and economic implications; tourism and globalisation; new forms of work and a lack of accessible housing, or environmental challenges.

    Identifying the challenges and opportunities in the territory highlights the need for new urban planning that provides a response to them, which is summarised in 10 general objectives:

    Goals and challenges
    The diagnosis of the current regulation enables various disparities and shortcomings to be identified, as well as opportunities for improvement, while simultaneously establishing the principles that must govern the construction of the new regulatory framework.

    The PDU plans to establish a regulation of the territory by means of three types of regulatory provisions:


    At the same time, the objectives set out in the PDU will be determined through three types of stipulations: for immediate direct application; directly applicable pending implementation through the PDU; to be implemented in subsequent general planning.
The metropolitan region has experienced outstanding urban planning in recent decades, which has enabled the metropolis as we know it today to develop. However, after being in force for over 40 years, it must be updated in order to restores the metropolitan vision with five main goals: to reinforce the metropolitan solidarity and capital status, promote the naturalisation and resilience of the metropolitan area, foster sustainable mobility and articulate the territory based on a polycentric structure, encourage social cohesion by promoting housing and ensuring the habitability of urban fabrics, and boost the competitiveness of economic activities.

These objectives must be achieved by implementing the Plan, which will have three types of regulatory stipulations:

  • Stipulations for immediate direct application, which will regulate the classification of land based on the basic situations of rural and urbanised land; metropolitan structural elements formed by the ecological structure, green structure, centres, metropolitan roads, strategic mobility infrastructures and metropolitan services; and the agroforestry mosaic which includes core areas, ecological connectors, areas of agricultural regeneration and areas of high agricultural value.
  • Stipulations for direct application to be implemented through the PDU, which are the action strategies, and which include metropolitan projects to address urban fractures and discontinuities, and the development of areas of opportunity to reinforce the polycentric model or areas of regeneration, in both urban areas and the agroforestry mosaic, to improve their quality.
  • Stipulations to be implemented from general planning, which will enable a detailed regulation of settlements in favour of the improved habitability of residential fabrics and the competitiveness of economic activity fabrics. The PDU will define the urban planning situations of  urban settlements according to their metropolitan role, their function as specialised or mixed cities, the morphological category of the fabric and its relative location, and will establish the objectives for growth and socio-environmental facilities at the municipal level, and the basic uses of the various urban fabrics.