Pathways & Pitfalls to Better Sub-Urban Planning

Final Action Dissemination for COST Action TU 1206 Sub-Urban (2013-2017)

“The vision is for Future Cities that live sustainably and in harmony with the ground they are built on. Relevant policy at local, national and trans-national scales will be needed to support this.» Dr Diarmad Campbell, Chair of COST Action TU 1206 Sub-Urban, BGS.

Increasing urbanisation throughout the world challenges the sustainable development and resilience of cities. Despite this, the importance of the ground beneath cities is under-recognised and often overlooked. The main aim of the Sub-Urban Action is to provide a long-needed contribution to greater interaction and networking, and so transform the relationship between experts who develop urban subsurface knowledge and those who can benefit most from it - urban decision makers, practitioners and the wider research community.

By 2050 it is estimated that two-thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas. Europe's population is already substantially urbanised and as populations grow, sustainable development - a pattern of growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment for present and future generations - is increasingly threatened.

In contrast to the attention given to the visible (above ground) expressions of cities, there is a marked lack of appreciation of the importance of the subsurface amongst those who plan, develop and manage cities. For underground space to remain a societal asset, we need to plan and manage its use. In cities such as Helsinki and St Petersburg subsurface urban development has been integrated into the land-use planning system. If this is not done, the greatest benefits of underground space will prove to be short-lived. For example, unanticipated disruption of groundwater flows can cause wells to dry up, cause ingress of pollutants, damage to sites of historical interest or cause flooding of existing subsurface developments.

In 2012, the British Geological Survey together with other geological surveys in northern Europe, put forward a proposal to the Transport and Urban theme of COST for greater interaction and networking between experts who develop urban subsurface knowledge and those who can benefit most from it - urban decision-makers, planners and practitioners (private consultants and contractors).

Chair of Sub-Urban COST action TU 1206 Diarmad Campbell (BGS) has given an interview explaining the intent and effect of our action.

The Action, part of the Transport and Urban Domain aims to:

  • Draw together collective research capabilities in 3D/4D characterisation, prediction and visualisation of the subsurface;

  • Deliver this in appropriate forms;

  • Provide training and continuing support and advice to better inform and empower decision makers and other end-users;

  • Foster development of policy which reflects the importance of the urban subsurface;

  • Recommend the basis for improved availability, initial use and re-use of subsurface data.


Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a European Concerted Research Action designated as COST Action TU1206: SUB-URBAN - A European network to improve understanding and use of the ground beneath our cities. The Memorandum of Understanding can be found at:

Memorandum of Understanding for COST Action TU 1206 Sub-Urban


Co-operation with other COST Actions and organizations

Key opportunity to explore synergies with other TUD COST Actions: TU1204 | People Friendly Cities in a Data Rich World with Professor Mark Dyer (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, MC Chair), TU 1208 Civil Engineering Applications of Ground Penetrating Radar with Dr Lara Pajewski (Roma Tre University), and Action 120Y Shallow Geotermi with Peter Huggenberg and Jannis Epting (Univeristy of Basel, Switzerland). European network for shallow geothermal energy applications in buildings and infrastructures (GABI) with Grzegorz Ryzynski(PGI-NRI). The GABI website disseminate relevant information related to Sub-Urban action. And TU 1206 Sub-Urban MC Chair Diarmad Campbell (BGS) attended Lisbon Meeting and gave invited presentation at TU 1202 Impact on climate change on engineered slopes for infrastructure.

In addition members of the Sub-Urban group are taking part in Smart Cities with Integrated Urban Planning and Sustainable Development (Commitment 6985) with Hans de Beer (NGU) and Ignace van Campenhout (Rotterdam Municipal Engineers). Collaboration is initiated between the Sub-Urban group and ITA - International Tunnelling and Underground space AssosiationISOCARP - International Society of Cities and Regional Planners. ISOCARP has published a booklet - Think Deep: Planning, development and use of underground space in cities - that is addressing relevant issues for the Sub-Urban group.


Action dissemination guidelines and COST corporate identity

We encourage all COST Actions to communicate their work and results to a wide array of audiences, including non-scientific ones. Visit this section for tips and tricks on how to best reach your audience and achieve impact.

The Guidelines for the dissemination of COST Action results and outcomes  are meant to help and encourage Actions to communicate their work, while using the COST corporate identity elements correctly. The elements are outlined in the document. 

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Background information useful for the work within Sub-Urban

City Resilience Framework

Future proofing cities