As part of the Covenant of Mayor's twinning programme, representatives from Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, and Hengelo, the Netherlands, came together to share their experiences in developing Sustainable Energy & Climate Plans (SECAP) as part of their commitments. Although the cities differ in many aspects, the exchange brought insights and ideas to both cities on a wide range of topics, from circular economy to urban regeneration and nature restoration.
Circular Economy and Recycling
Hengelo prepared a full programme for Vila Franca de Xira on circular economy. The Dutch city demonstrated effective waste collection and recycling strategies, including discussions with representatives of the local recycling center, the Twence waste processing and energy generation company, highlighting the importance of resource efficiency.
Fossil-Free Communities and Energy Cooperatives
Beyond circularity, Hengelo also showcased its fossil-free neighborhoods and organised discussions with citizens engaged in an energy cooperative, emphasizing the role of community engagement in sustainability. Vila Franca de Xira gleaned valuable lessons in fostering a sense of identity and mental wellbeing among residents.
Repurposing Urban Spaces for Social and Economic Wellbeing
In addition to addressing climate and energy-related initiatives, Hengelo also emphasized the importance of social and economic sustainability. They brought their visitors from Portugal to an old industrial site in the city center, which has been repurposed through collaborative efforts involving local citizens. This site, once neglected, now thrives thanks to community involvement and local input.
Beyond this initiative, discussions with engaged citizens and Hengelo's welfare department revealed the strong link between mental wellbeing and a sense of community, underlining the importance of community-driven initiatives.
Nature Restoration and Innovation
When Hengelo reciprocated the visit, the focus shifted to nature restoration and innovation. Vila Franca de Xira shared its expertise in resource-efficient wastewater treatment and effective irrigation systems with local farmers. A visit to Hychem, a biotech innovation company, showcased cutting-edge research in industrial microalgae production.
Repurposing Economic Sites
Both cities drew inspiration from transforming former economic sites. The Linear Riverside Park in Póvoa de Santa Iria, once a sand deposit, now boasts pedestrian trails connecting urban and natural spaces—an exemplary case of urban regeneration.
The exchange deepened the commitment of both cities to collaborating within the Covenant of Mayors framework. Ongoing discussions will revolve around critical topics like soil health and sustainable food production, reinforcing their dedication to sustainable urban development.
- Publication date
- 8 November 2023