Regional Association Ruhr –
Driving force behind the Ruhr Metropolis
The Revierpark Nienhausen offers multiple nearby recreational possibilities.
The Ruhr Metropolis is Germany’s densest urban landscape: Eleven independent cities and four counties, a total of 53 cities and municipalities with 5.2 million inhabitants on 4,434 square kilometres, comprise the members and the jurisdiction of Regional Assoziation Ruhr. In North Rhine-Westphalia, this represents an administrative idiosyncrasy. Under its umbrella, it unites the Ruhr area’s municipalities into a cooperative association beyond all other existing state and much older administrative boundaries across the Ruhr area. It fulfils legally defined tasks and provides regional services in close cooperation with numerous public and private partners.
They include business organizations such as Initiativkreis Ruhr and pro Ruhrgebiet as well as numerous universities and colleges, scientific institutes and non-academic establishments, the water district association “Emschergenossenschaft” and Ruhrverband or cultural and sports event organizers, to name just a few.
RVR is the oldest and largest German association of municipalities. It was called into life on its very own legal basis in 1920 as the Ruhr district residential association “Siedlungsverband Ruhrkohlenbezirk” (SVR). Its foundation was the answer to numerous problems of the rapidly growing coal and steel centre along the river Ruhr, which municipalities would only be able to solve by combining their efforts. The structural change along the Ruhr has also changed the structural conditions and expectations of municipal cooperation in the Ruhr area. On its 2004 legal basis with the aim to adapt to new challenges, the regional association has redefined itself to be different in accordance with a partly new set of main objectives.
RVR is a public corporation based in Essen. It is financed by its members on a “pay as you go” basis, whereby many projects would not be feasible without additional funding by the state and European Union.
RVR is self-governed by means of its elected organs: association assembly, association commission, and regional director.
Cycle path on a former mining railway line.
All 15 member entities are represented in the association assembly with one seat and one vote. The representatives are elected by the city or county councils.
The association assembly further comprises the top administrative officers of the member municipalities – that is, the chief mayors and county chief executives – as born members.
Regional governance is a long-standing tradition with the RVR assembly insofar as regionally relevant social actors are systematically included. There is a broad political agreement on the many positive implications of their appropriate participation in the decision-making processes. Accordingly, the association assembly further comprises advisory members such as representatives of regionally active unions, employers’ associations, chambers of industry, commerce and crafts, sports, cultural and nature conservation associations as well as women’s rights groups.
The Haniel dump with
Ibarrola steles and amphitheatre.
The association commission prepares the resolutions made by the assembly and, in its own right, decides on matters of particular importance. Internal management tasks are assumed by the regional director.
The association’s tasks are defined by law. They are divided into compulsory tasks, voluntary tasks, and tasks at the request of member municipalities.
In the autumn of 2009, RVR undertook the function of regional planning organ for the Ruhr Metropolis on behalf of the county governments of Arnsberg, Münster and Düsseldorf, which had been in charge until then. In this role, the association assembly acts as regional council and makes the functional and procedural decisions with regard to preparing the regional plans for the Ruhr area. As regional council, the association assembly can further submit proposals for funding programmes and promotional measures of regional significance. The association issues regional planning and development concepts, so-called master plans, which must be observed in the assessment procedures for the municipal land-use planning as well as the superordinate regional planning. Currently, the association is drawing up the master plan for spatial and settlement structure. Similar plans are being prepared for the areas of sports and culture. Thanks to its diverse planning instruments, the association effectively manages to contribute to a balanced and future-oriented development of the Ruhr Metropolis.
Former Federal Minister of Finance
Peer Steinbrück at the RVR assembly.
Nowadays, the new quality as Ruhr Metropolis is already coming alive through large supra-municipal infrastructure projects of the region. The most important ones administered by the association are the parkland of the Emscher river “Emscher Landschaftspark” and the industrial heritage trail “Route der Industriekultur”.
With a west-to-east stretch of approximately 85 kilometres in the north of the Ruhr Metropolis and a total area of 436 square kilometres, the parkland “Emscher Landschaftspark” connects almost 500 individual projects into a new type of green belt. As a combination of 25 anchor points and numerous additional side trails, the “Route der Industriekultur” (industrial heritage trail) represents the central component of Ruhr area tourism.
As the largest municipal forest owner in North Rhine-Westphalia (approximately 12,000 hectares), the association safeguards precious open space and makes it accessible to the population for recreational use. The large spoil piles bequeathed by the mining industry are a feature of the Ruhr area. So far, the association has transformed 34 of those literally prominent land pockets through greening and has staged them as walkable landmarks by means of artistic design.
In the field of economic promotion, the association complements the municipal commitments with regional networking and offers shared presentation platforms at trade fairs, for example. In terms of the regional tourist infrastructure, the association builds and maintains an extensive network of more than 700 kilometres of bicycle paths, bridleways and hiking trails in addition to historic railway lines. In the global metropolitan competition, the importance of distinctive regional marketing can hardly be overestimated. RVR, thus, saw the candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture 2010 as an opportunity to present the Ruhr area as the Ruhr Metropolis – also at an international level. As supporter of the office for the candidacy, the association has bundled the cultural offerings of the region and convinced the national as well as international selection juries of the unique potential of the Ruhr area.
The voluntary tasks of the association include accomplishments in the areas of culture, sports, surveying, cartography and recreation.
For instance, in cooperation with local sports organizations, the association hosts the Ruhr Olympics, which are held in a different town every year. In this biggest European youth sporting event, up to 9,000 of the best up-and-coming athletes of the region compete in 26 sports and over 200 disciplines.
RVR has gathered an extensive and multi-faceted geological database on the subject of the Ruhr area. On the one hand, this information is indispensable to the association in its planning activities, and on the other hand, it serves as a base for a multitude of thematic maps, which RVR produces for public use.
Sports and recreation are offered in the ten regional leisure facilities that the association has built and supported in cooperation with the partner cities. Upwards of ten million visitors are taking advantage of those every year.
At the request of member municipalities, the association ensures safe waste disposal in the Ruhr Metropolis, supervises specially protected natural areas, and develops landscape plans.
In the field of waste management, the association utilizes its fully owned subsidiary, AGR, which is also its biggest investment company.