Promotion of local public objectives with public land development - Is it effective?

Eero Valtonen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The megatrend of urbanisation is predicted to continue on all continents in the foreseeable future. This calls for intensive property development to provide urban facilities for people and businesses. Public authorities have the important responsibility of ensuring that this development occurs sustainably. In addition, they usually provide certain public infrastructures supporting private properties. Public land development is one of the approaches that public authorities can employ to fulfil these tasks. This thesis investigates, mainly in the Finnish context, the opportunities and challenges that public land development can provide to municipalities from the perspective of promoting public objectives. It also explores how effective this approach can be in such promotion. The thesis employs the mixed methods research approach following the pragmatist research philosophy. The empirical research involves institutional-level case studies of three countries—Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands—and six project-level case studies of large-scale urban development projects within these countries. The case studies are complemented by a survey targeting the project managers of the Finnish large-scale urban development projects. It can be concluded that public land development has its strengths in the promotion of the qualitative development goals, public value capturing and, to some extent, the coordinated realisation of development. Its weaknesses lie in the exposure of the public to the economic risks of land development. Effective management of these economic risks seems to be difficult to arrange in practice. Development-led planning appeared as an essential tool in this risk management. However, the results concerning its effectiveness were quite far from encouraging. In addition, the empirical results highlight the importance of consistent long-term land policies in the promotion of the equitable treatment of landowners when public land development is used. Such land policies can be challenging to achieve in democratic systems with relatively short-term governments. The thesis contributes to public land development research by combining institutional- and project-level analysis involving more than one institutional framework. Thus far, such studies have been scarce. Furthermore, previous academic research on public land development has mostly employed Dutch data. Therefore, this work strengthens the understanding of public land development by introducing findings from other, less studied countries with a significant tradition in public land development. It also suggests that the classification of land use planning practices to plan-led and development-led practices might not be sufficient anymore. In addition to the academic contribution, the thesis also provides some practical policy implications that can be employed by decision makers in Finland.
Translated title of the contributionAktiivinen maapolitiikka kunnallisten tavoitteiden edistäjänä
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Falkenbach, Heidi, Supervising Professor
  • Falkenbach, Heidi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8489-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8490-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • public land development
  • value capturing
  • cost recovery
  • planning objectives
  • urbanisation
  • equitability
  • effectiveness


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