Factors of urban sprawl in Bulgaria

  • Aleksandar D. Slaev Varna Free University ”Chernorizets Hrabar”, Varna, Bulgaria
  • Ivan Nikiforov Varna Free University ”Chernorizets Hrabar”, Varna, Bulgaria
Keywords: urban sprawl in Bulgaria; urban market processes; EC urban policy; sustainability


Urban sprawl has become a topical urban issue first in North America and later in Western Europe. It turned into a major challenge to urban sustainability. However, sprawl in Western Europe has displayed many specific features different than that in North America and these features are related to the concrete circumstances in the two continents. The social, economic and urban situation in the new European democracies is also quite different and this inevitably has its impact on the forms of sprawl. One of the main characteristics of sprawl is that it is considered to be market-led. More precisely, a major factor is the lack of balance between market trends and planning policy that allows for the market players to determine the use of their plots in suburban locations with little reference to the public interests and issues of sustainability. As the countries in Eastern and South-eastern Europe have already made certain progress on their way to market society, the problems of sprawl were faced in these countries too. The goal of the paper is to apply widely accepted definitions of sprawl to the processes in the suburbs of Sofia and, thus, to assess whether these are processes of sprawl. It also aims to study the specific traditions and residential preferences of Sofia's population in order to identify specific characteristics and aspects of the Bulgarian model. The findings of the paper confirm that Bulgaria's capital Sofia is experiencing processes of urban sprawl, particularly in its southern suburban areas - in the foot of Vitosha Mountain. Next, these processes display strong regional characteristics. So far sprawl in Bulgaria is less intensive than that in Western Europe but also than that in the post-socialist countries in Central Europe and in Baltic states. Eventually, the urban forms of Bulgarian sprawl tend to be denser and with mix of single-family and multi-family residential types and mix of land uses.


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