Planning Work for Rebuilding the Ahrtal Valley

09.06.2022

AS+P at the workshop for all the participants: Planners Lutz Krämer-Heid (front row, outside l.) and Svenja Knuffke (second row, center) took part. Photo © AS+P Albert Speer + Partner GmbH

At a workshop meeting at the town hall of the Altenahr local authority, AS+P led discussions between several urban planning offices, representatives of the administration, the relevant municipalities, and the State Ministry of the Interior. Initial ideas and the current status of work on urban planning development concepts for the communities damaged by the flooding in the central Ahrtal region.

Contracts for planning work have now been awarded for eight of the communities hit by the catastrophic flooding in the Ahrtal region last year, thus marking a further important reconstruction milestone for the Altenahr local authority. Back at the beginning of April, State Minister of the Interior Roger Lewentz approved an application to release the necessary funding for the townships of Altenahr, Ahrbrück, Dernau, Hönningen, Kesseling, Kirchsahr, Mayschoß and Rech. The Ministry of the Interior made some €260,000 available for this purpose. A number of urban planning offices from the State of Rhineland Palatinate had made presentations to the Altenahr local authority. In April, the offices under contract then set to work – conducting talks with the local mayors, assessing the situation, and drafting initial planning ideas. Then, on May 31, the preliminary results were presented at an initial workshop meeting at the town hall in Altenahr and discussed with representatives of the administration, the local towns and the Ministry of the Interior.

These had been preceded by those initial measures that the urban planners at AS+P had undertaken at the beginning of the year. Among other things, these had included producing an overarching urban planning concept for the Altenahr local authority and examining the question of how the local townships intended to develop in urban planning terms going forward. The planning work thus focused on the entire area covered by the Altenahr local authority, which covers 12 municipalities. The municipalities and the overarching authorities were included in the process. At the beginning of April, AS+P had provided a survey of the current status of work in terms of the areas that are going to be important for the future of the local authority at a public meeting of the local council.

Furthermore, AS+P is assisting the administration with pressing specialized issues such as rebuilding campsites, possible strategies for filling the gaps between buildings, and what approach to take with legal zoning plans for those areas directly on the banks of the Ahr River. There are immense, complex challenges in terms of urban planning with many aspects to be taken into consideration. Dealing with these will take time. The relevant visions, ideas and sustainable concepts are being elaborated by AS+P both at its project office in Altenahr and at its head office in Frankfurt.

Firm plans were not presented to the public on May 31. The workshop was used to define future topics, form thematic clusters, highlight the potential for cooperation across the communities, and discuss possible lighthouse projects. Moreover, information was exchanged on the options for building in the town centers. A further work phase now begins. The public will then receive comprehensive information and be strongly involved – all the workshop participants agreed on this.

The task is to find answers to important questions relating to sustainable urban planning for the Ahrtal Valley: What do, in particular, the town centers look like in the communities along the river? Is it possible to harmonize architectural standards and construction methods tailored to coping with potential future flooding? Where along the Ahr River is more land available for development and in which places should reconstruction occur? How to rebuild the riverbank promenades and riverside zones in order to offer inhabitants, visitors, and tourist maximum quality? Can new attractions be created? – Significant challenges especially in the context of the tight schedule: By the end of July 2022 the community development concepts are supposed to be ready at least in terms of a coordinated vision and the key characteristics for the individual townships. This will then lay a good planning basis going forwards.

The four planning offices involved are collaborating closely. Not only regular meetings, coordination of the relevant work and videoconferences, but also close contact with the decision-makers in the townships and the local authority are all destined to guarantee an optimum raft of measures to reconstruct the section of the Ahrtal Valley that comes under the Altenahr local authority. In this context, civic participation forms a crucial element for successful planning.

The local development concepts for the individual municipalities that are now being drafted by the respective offices complement the measures laid out in the overarching concept and flesh them out. The objective is to coordinate the many individual measures being taken in the various communities. In this context, the townships of Altenahr and Kirchsahr have taken under contract the Bitburg-based ISU company, while those of Ahrbrück, Hönningen and Kesseling have appointed Landau-based Stadtimpuls, and the communities of Dernau, Mayschoss and Rech have hired Stadt-Land-plus from Boppard. One special feature of the overall approach is that the planning work, both at the overarching level and locally is taking place simultaneously – an unusual way of doing things but imperative in view of the pressing nature of the work involved.