What Is Amenagement du Territoire or Territorial Development?

We suggest the following definition of Amenagement du territoire (territorial development): action and practice (rather than science, technique, or art) of disposing with order, through the space of a country and in a prospective vision, people and its activities, amenities, and means of communication they can use, taking in consideration natural, human, and economic (and even strategic) constraints in order that functions and relations between the people can be exerted in the most easy, economic, and harmonious way.

Each term of this definition has its utility:

  • action and practice: territorial development implies an operational intervention and can be considered nei ther as a science nor as a technique, or as an art;
  • dispose with order through space (y): this expression, apparently insignificant, emphasizes the voluntary character of the intervention, which seeks to institute an ordered situation, for that preferred to laissez faire attitude;
  • the space of a country: one mentions currently other scales than the national one, mostly local ones, but the actions at the national scale contributing to the organization of the country constitute the specific field of territorial development;
  • people and its activities, amenities and means of communication they can use: territorial development is global, even if one may consider specific aspects (e.g., rural development, development of tourism, road development, etc.) which participate in territorial development;
  • natural, human, and economic (and even strategic) constraints: here are the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic development that cares for the environment and for the preservation of resources for future generations); and
  • the most easy, economic, and harmonious way: this second trilogy underlines that neither attractiveness nor economic development, neither esthetic search nor excellence of interindividual relations can separately be sufficient and that all these goals must be pursued simultaneously; therefore, territorial development is in essence interdisciplinary and cannot be claimed by any particular discipline (geography, economy, sociology, architecture, etc.).

Even if geography, no more than any other discipline, can claim a priority in territorial development, space is at the heart of such an approach. It is the same for time, despite the fact that this term is only present, in our definition, in an implicit way and this through a third trilogy:

  • the past, the historic time: the space to organize is not virgin and the planner must take in account what has been 'disposed' by previous generations. He must be imbued with historic knowledge and culture;
  • the future: the living environment that will result from the actions of territorial development is marked for a period of several decades (e.g., for leisure amenities), generations (housing and activities), or even centuries (transport infrastructure). Territorial development is therefore inseparable from prospective reflection (necessity reinforced by the objective of sustainable development), which cannot be joined with simple projections or 'futurologist' imaginings; and
  • the present: the intervention on space will be only a wavering, caricature of willfulness, if it is not inserted in the state of the society, which does not exclude a debate to let it evolve. This supposes fine preliminary analysis to know and understand the values and the attempts of the society, which will lead to a precise diagnosis, to hypothetic solutions, and to a reasoned choice between them.