c/o Lord Mayor's Office
Office for European Affairs
City of Cologne
Willy-Brandt-Platz 3
50679 Köln
Tel: +49 221 221 215 94, Fax: +49 221 221 218 49
Michael Kremer

Dr Barbara Möhlendick (NORISC Project Coordinator)

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This is an archived article published in October 2003
NORISC seeks private investors to further
promote revitalisation of brownfield sites

Due to massive structural changes in the economies of all major industrial countries, many former industrial sites have been abandoned and, consequently, thousands of jobs have been lost. These abondoned brownfield sites are mostly situated in central urban locations and have therefore excellent access to public transport. Brownfield revitalisation is essential if cities want to make up job losses in old industries by creating employment opportunities in new industries and the service sector. Making brownfield sites once again productive and liveable will bring improvements to the social structure or urban communities.

With this in mind, as an initiative by the environmental department of the City of Cologne, the three-year NORISC project was launched in January 2001. The project was intended to promote the revitalisation of contaminated sites in urban areas. The acronym NORISC shows how this project attempts to improve current policies: NORISC stands for Network Oriented Risk-assessment by In-situ Screening of Contaminated sites. An interdisciplinary approach was developed within a network of cities and organisations. Sampling and analysis are intended to be carried out on-site. The NORISC consortium consists of cities, research institutes and universities from Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Poland and the USA.

The revitalisation of abandoned sites is necessary for the establishment of new industries but is often impaired by investment risks such as the contamination of soil. For investors, planning certainty at the early stage of development is crucial. As a result, businesses tend to invest on greenfield sites lying on the outskirts of communities. Cities lose jobs, potential tax revenue and, moreover, unspoiled land is used excessively.

Efforts to promote the revitalisation of brownfield properties are hampered by a number of problems. For instance, current environmental assessment techniques are extremely cost and time-consuming and do not provide spatial results. The rejuvenation of sites with potentially high re-usage values takes an unacceptably long time. Without a targeted recycling of the sites, urban structures will suffer while social and cultural life will deteriorate.

The NORISC project combines and integrates new and existing site investigation techniques in order to provide strategies for efficient risk assessment of contaminated sites. These techniques were derived from geophysics, geochemistry, geology and hydrogeology and include data processing with GIS. Measuring techniques focus on on-site analysis. A guideline for site investigation was established in the form of a decision support software. This valuable tool is of interest to city planners, decision-makers, landowners and investors. The software integrates data management which is compatible to common GIS systems. NORISC significantly contributes to improvements in site characterisation and risk assessment by minimising time and cost taken for investigation, redevelopment and remedial work.

Under its Fifth Framework Programme, the European Commission provided NORISC with some initial funding. This support will cease at the end of 2003 and the consortium is now looking into the possibility of attracting private investment. The project’s coodinator, Dr Barbara Möhlendick, told City Mayors that there was a strong possibility that in 2004 NORISC would be re-formed as a limited company with a private sector investor as significant shareholder. Dr. Möhlendick said that while the software developed by NORISC would continue to be provided free of charge, a new company would also seek to act as paid consultants to municipal authorities and others involved in the revitalisation of brownfield sites.
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