Ciutat Vella has undergone an intense process of transformation and urban revitalisation since the early eighties. This process began with the Special Internal Reform Plans of Ciutat Vella and Barceloneta (1979-1986), and a subsequent declaration of the entire district as an Integral Rehabilitation Area (1986), which has continued until today, with reform plans in each of its neighbourhoods.

Beyond the purely urban dimension, a variety of programmes have been put in place aimed at the area’s social and economic development, as well as comprehensive public policy intervention focused on enhancing the quality of life of the inhabitants in the area. In this regard, there are two types of programmes: Usage Plans and the Neighbourhoods Act (Pla d’Usos and Llei de Barris).

Ciutat Vella Usage Plan

Known as the Ciutat Vella Usage Plan (formally: Special plan for public establishments and other activities in Ciutat Vella), this is a planning tool used to regulate the implementation of certain activities in this area and to regulate premises under public way bylaws (bars, restaurants, theatres, music venues, cinemas, etc.) to ensure a mix of uses and defend neighbourhood life in the district. The first Usage Plan was passed in 1991, but despite subsequent modifications (1995, 2000 and 2005) it was not until 2010 that a proposal was made to divide the District into several zones: some with denser areas (where the new implementation of activities is more restrictive) and others being intermediate and more permissive zones (where it is easier to locate an activity).

In 2013 there was a modification of the Plan, which lowered restrictions for the tourism sector by allowing the location of more hotels in the district. Although the objective was still to obtain a balance between increasing economic activity in the District and the quality of life of its neighbours, wider zoning was defined with new targets prioritising the arrival of investments and the renovation of premises, allowing an increase in the number of tourist hotels. The lack of comprehensive control over the registration and de-registration of businesses meant new efforts were made in order to ensure some sort of balance in terms of commerce and retail.

This is the legislation currently in force (June 2016) and it has a major impact on the economic development of the District. To this we have to add a Usage Plan for the Rambla, developed at the end of 2014, which takes into account its uniqueness (Special Regulation Plan for the Rambla).

Neighbourhoods Act

Ciutat Vella has received comprehensive intervention projects from all three Neighbourhoods Acts (an Act designed to improve urban areas and towns that require special attention), in the areas of Santa Caterina and Sant Pere (2004-2008), Barceloneta (2008-2012), South Raval (2010- 2018). This Act gave the Catalan government intervention tools to improve areas that, because of their conditions, require special attention from the authorities. The current Neighbourhoods Act is located in South Raval until 2018, which is an urban renewal policy focused on vulnerable areas with the aim of making significant public investment to leverage transformation. The sources of funding are provided by the Regional Government and local governments, on average around 10 million Euros per call.

Given the precedents of these specific and sector policies, the Neighbourhoods Act is aimed at fully intervening in different areas (social, physical/urban, economic, environment) with a multi-dimensional treatment of issues affecting neighbourhoods. It is worth highlighting that a wide variety of stakeholders have a will to work together with a common goal: improving the neighbourhood, producing a certain amount of horizontal transversality (working together across areas such as social services, urban planning and economic promotion) and vertical transversality (participation of local associations, neighbours or at an individual level). In the case of the Neighbourhoods Act of South Raval, the global economic recession delayed the arrival of investments to carry out 36 projects agreed on to improve social and urban development. As such this policy has been developed over eight years as opposed to four years as established at the outset and this is still in progress. In the present context, the Neighbourhoods Act of South Raval will be integrated into the Neighbourhood Plan started this mandate.

Current framework


The current framework came about firstly from the Municipal Action Programme (PAM) and the District Action Plan (PAD) for Ciutat Vella, planning tools that are still pending approval, which set out the priorities, objectives and the actions that the municipal government is committed to developing during the mandate. These essential documents have been prepared in a participatory manner based on a process aimed at discussing and collectively building the actions and priorities of government with citizens and giving special prominence to neighbourhoods and participation, and the digital participation of neighbours.

The priority action lines of these roadmaps in terms of socio-economics in the city and in Ciutat Vella include promoting the cooperative, social and solidarity economy, commitments to diversify the production model, promoting quality jobs and developing the local economy in a more grounded sense so that it is capable of developing the potential of the area.

Neighbourhood Plan against inequalities

The ‘Neighbourhood Plan against inequalities is one of the main measures of the municipal government regarding social issues. The planned investment runs to 150 million Euros for 10 neighbourhood plans for areas that have been particularly hit by the recession, in order to reduce inequalities. Challenges have been set like recovering economic activity, dealing with urban deficits and ‘empowering neighbours’ based on ‘co-produced’ actions between the community fabric in the area and the council as a whole.

Although this time resources come largely from the municipal budget, the ‘Neighbourhoods Plan against inequalities’ roughly follows the main lines of the former Neighbourhoods Act (Law 2/2004), placing special emphasis in this case on the stimulation of economic and social programmes (education, health and conviviality issues).

The neighbourhoods included in this programme were determined by analyzing variables such as the levels of average income, socio-economic, educational and social indicators, and also points such as urban deficits or the state of the housing stock. They are divided between the districts of Nou Barris, Sant Andreu, Sant Martí, Horta-Guinardó, Sants-Montjuïc and Ciutat Vella. In the last case, the strategy and intervention characteristics are to be determined throughout 2016.

Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2020

Moreover, the Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2020 opens a new planning, reflexion and shared knowledge process about the city’s tourism activity and its effects via an analysis of the current situation and future scenarios.

The result of this process will allow us to define a series of municipal initiatives and actions that should allow us to upgrade commitments and responsibilities regarding the sustainability of the destination, as well as managing tourism and its effects on the city, satisfying –at the same time– visitors and citizens.

Responsible Consumption Promotion Plan

Increasingly businesses and citizens are showing an interest in responsible consumption as a commitment to another type of economy and sustainability. Responsible consumption brings us local and/or organic products, fair trade, short sales circuits, repaired and re-usable products, collaborative networks, reductions in packaging ... and especially a consciousness about consumption as a means to resolve real needs and, at the same time, being able to help reduce inequalities and increase sustainability. The Responsible Consumption Promotion Plan of Barcelona City Council aims to promote changes in consumption at the institutional level and also for the people that inhabit the city.