The southern coast of the Gulf of Finland is an area where a multitude of interests collide – those of local population, country house owners, construction companies, yacht clubs, etc. Besides, one must not forget about the interests of the environment and the wellbeing of species that inhabit the territory. There is an acute need for a sound spatial planning that would consider all those interests. But is it possible? And if so, how could it be possible to give everyone their fair share while keeping the coast’s unique nature intact and not compromising the area’s economic development?
The answer to these questions was sought by the participants of the seminar Fair share: nature, people and businesses on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, which was held on May 18, 2016, by Friends of the Baltic NGO and ECOM expert center. It was part of the International project “Local Research and Education Hubs- key for sustainability education” (No.CBSSPSF/SC 042015/4), implemented with the support of the CBSS Project Support Facility.
Over 20 participants, including members of St. Petersburg legislative assembly, NGOs, urban planners, experts on nature protection areas, media and other stakeholders came together to discuss the issues of the coast and its development perspectives. They took a tour of the coast and observed over 10 points of interest – from a natural and recreational point of view, but also those where stakeholder interests collide.
River valleys of Kikenka and Strelka
In Kikenka river valley (the area classified as “recreational”, we saw private houses and vegetable gardens with no wastewater treatment system in sight. The same was observed in Strelka valley area. Its banks are filled with construction sights and vegetable gardens, and we spotted a few illegal fertilizer storages – right in the water body buffer zone.
According to Olga Senova of Friends of the Baltic, this situation is aggravated by sewage from livestock farms from Leningrad Region into the upper stream of both rivers. In the lower stream, the river water condition is largely deteriorated, and that, in turn, affects the quality of related water objects, the Petrodvorets fountain system, adds up to the pollution in the Gulf and reduces the recreational value of the coast. In order to solve the problem, the city has to work together with the Region.
Strelna – the territory of green fences
Strelna is one of St. Petersburg’s oldest coastal suburbs. It has a great potential for both cultural leisure activities, as well as outdoor activities by the sea. In reality, things do not look that great. Due to Konstantinovsky palace becoming an official presidential residence, a double line of green fence appeared on both sides of the historic “lower road”, blocking the access to the coast. Today, there is only one way to access the shoreline – a curvy and narrow path, far away from the residential area.
The Strelna beach was created as a way to compensate the locals for the coastal area by Konstantinovsky palace that they no longer have access to. A lot of money was invested in the improvement of the territory, but to this day, there is no infrastructure, besides a sandy area and a few paths. The areas is overgrown and the number of visitors is extremely low due to its remote location.
In the coastal town of Lomonosov, there are no legal areas for recreation on the coast, by the water. Some beaches have almost lost their sand – due to either climate change and subsequent frequent storms or the underwater ground movement provoked by the removal of ground for the artificial expansion of the coastal land area.
Another interesting point is a territory of Neptune yacht club in Peterhof. Here, unlike in many bother places, there are no fences or dirty narrow paths – the access to the coast through the club territory is open for all pedestrians. The area has been largely improved and beautified by the yacht club members. However, for many years of the club’s existence, many little houses, sheds and other constructions have been built around the yacht port. The yacht owners would love to keep improving the territory and develop projects for wider population, including children’s yacht club activities, but they are hindered by the strict legislation in this field. On one hand, strict limits for water and coastal area use are good, but are all such limits reasonable? For example, the territory can only be rented for 11 months, and there is never a guarantee for prolongation. In addition, the restriction for building sheds and other small constructions seems to hinder the development of this area as a potential recreational center for local population.
A long time ago, on the place of Bausch pond there was a clay quarry. Then, for many years it was not used for industrial purposes, and became a popular recreational area for local people. Now it forms part of the Garden of Time villa community. Surprisingly, it was one on of very few objects approved by experts. The community demonstrates the importance of sound planning for residential development. Here, the environmental and economic component are balanced – the pond ecosystem is intact, and the natural component per se adds value to the property.
New concept of territorial development
Unfortunately, there are many examples that show the result of the lack of an integrated, holistic approach to planning. There is a clear need for an effective development strategy that works towards a balance between businesses, the society and nature.
After the tour, a round table discussion was arranged to let the stakeholders talk to each other and discuss the potential of the coast’s sustainable development. A new draft concept of the development of the southern coast was presented. The project implies the creation of a few ports for small vessels to boost the tourism and the recreational function of the coast. Some experts fear that however attractive, this project may imply the works to deepen the sea bottom to provide safe access to vessels. This will inevitably result in the water getting blurry and killing a large part of the water creatures. This will, in turn, have an effect on the food base of migratory birds that pass through this area.
There are several solutions the aforementioned problems that are being implemented already now. The papers that help legalize the natural protection area of Strelka and Kikenka river valleys are on their way. There are plans to include more natural areas in the process. The newly created protected area in Kronstadt is being improved, remaining parts of constructions and vegetable gardens recultivated and educational eco paths on their way.
There are many people and organizations who are interested in creating an integrated development plan of St. Petersburg. The task is to bring them together, along with all other stakeholders, to engage in a constructive conversation. We hope that this seminar was one of initial steps towards such an integrated approach, and the process will continue, to bring our efforts together towards the sustainable development of the territory and the balance between the interests of all stakeholders.