Urban forestry interventions in Italy: between technical administrative procedures and implementation

What are the administrative procedures involving an urban forestry project? How is the administrative work - indispensable from seed to tree - organised?

While the technical aspects of urban and periurban forestry are commonly known by technicians, the administrative work behind it is often less familiar. With no claim of being exhaustive, in this article we summarise the technical-administrative process of an intervention from its conception to its implementation. We refer in particular to the regulations applied in Lombardy which are similar to those applied in other Italian regions.

For any intervention that increases natural capital in Italy – the creation of an urban or peri-urban forest, tree fencing, flower meadows, or wetlands – national and European legislation must be followed. This takes the form of a technical-administrative process in which all the competent parties must be involved.

The process and procedures are different according to the place where the intervention is carried out. This includes cities and peri-urban areas, natural parks, hilly or mountainous areas, or areas adjacent to watercourses.


Afforestation interventions can receive funds from public (national or EU) or private bodies. These projects are usually initiated by bodies operating on the territory, such as Municipalities, which are closest to the needs of the population, but also Parks and Provinces that have and make available the areas on which to intervene. Citizens can join the process both with proposals and with operational activities. They usually participate through associations, creating real partnerships with public bodies.

The project

In the last few years, urban and peri-urban forestry interventions have been increasingly designed by multidisciplinary teams that follow the general and sector-specific regulations as well as the provisions of the financing bodies.

The project must comply with the ” Codice dei contratti pubblici – d.lgs. 50 del 2016″ (Code of public contracts) adopted in implementation of European Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU, which establish progressive project design levels according to three phases which for forestry works  can be described as follows.

The first level of the project design is an economic and financial feasibility study. This level is used to establish the surveys and studies needed to define the technical aspects of the works, as well as the graphic drawings to identify dimensions, types of intervention, and general economic estimate. At this stage, it is important to frame the territorial, social, and landscape contexts in which the intervention will be carried out. The technical and economic feasibility study must also contain the necessary documentation and information to allow the start of a possible expropriation procedure if the areas are not already available.

The second and third levels of the project design are called “definitive project” and “executive project”. They provide all the elements necessary to achieve the objectives of the intervention. These projects must ensure:

  • the satisfaction of the community’s needs;
  • compliance with environmental, town planning, cultural heritage and landscape protection regulations, as well as compliance with health and safety protection regulations;
  • limited land consumption;
  • compliance with hydro-geological, seismic and forestry constraints and other existing constraints;
  • the assessment of the life cycle and maintainability of the works;
  • the geological, geomorphological and hydrogeological compatibility of the works.

The definitive project

In forestry interventions, the definitive project identifies the works to be carried out in compliance with current legislation on land planning and related constraints. In addition, the definitive project must follow the requirements, criteria, guidelines and indications established by the contracting authority and, where present, by the feasibility project. The main aim of the definitive project is to collect all the necessary authorisations and quantify the maximum limit of expenditure to be respected by the definitive project. It also contains the work schedule.

The executive project

The executive project, designed in conformity with the final project, determines in detail the works to be carried out as well as  related estimated costs and the time schedule. The executive project must make it possible to identify the type, quality, size, and price of the works envisaged. In addition, it includes the maintenance plan of the work in relation to its expected life cycle.

The executive project contains different elements:

  • The report
    Drawing upon territorial context and regulatory constraints, the forestry report illustrates the contents and objectives of the intervention.
  • The estimate
    The estimate indicates the quantity, the unit cost and the total cost for each intervention foreseen by the project. The total amount necessary for the execution of the interventions and the safety charges must be highlighted.

  • The maintenance plan
    Contains all the activities that must be carried out to guarantee the rooting and survival of the green interventions as well as the functionality of the work realised. In the case of afforestation, 3 or 5 years of maintenance are normally foreseen, which may include the replacement of fallow trees, containment of herbaceous vegetation, irrigation, and pruning.

  • The unit prices list
    The unit price list shows the measurement and price for each work.

  • The economic framework
    Is the overall economic framework of the intervention, in which technical expenses and taxes are added to the amount identified in the estimate.

  • The labour incidence table
    It shows for each type of finished intervention the percentage of unit and total labour costs.

  • Project tables
    These are the representations of the intervention areas and of the interventions themselves in one or more project drawings, usually plans, sections, details.

Land availability and maintenance of interventions overtime

The planting of new forests, as well as the realisation of other naturalistic interventions, requires two essential elements: land availability and someone who will maintain it in the short and long term.

The convention is the document through which the parties involved stipulate a binding agreement. In the agreement, the owner(s) of the areas, whether public or private, must declare the availability of the areas and the immediate feasibility of the intervention. Where the land is leased, the owner(s) must also acquire signed consent from the tenants for any interventions. The tenants must also commit themselves not to harm, damage, or interfere with the project for the time period specified in the agreement.
The agreement also identifies the subject, public or private, responsible for maintenance for a fixed number of years. In the case of forests, this is usually 25 years, following the initial five-year maintenance period foreseen in the project. Finally, the competent bodies are responsible for updating the planning instruments and designating the land as forest area.

Approval procedures

The “Conferenza dei servizi (Services Conference)” – regulated by Law 241/90 – is the designated instrument through which all relevant stakeholders can express their opinions on the final project. If they need to, stakeholders can also ask for clarification or additional information before or during the conference.

One of the advantages of this tool is that it reduces the time needed to approve the final projects compared to other methods of stakeholder engagement. There are two modalities in which the Conference is  held:

  • synchronous“, i.e. with one or more meetings between representatives of the involved parties;
  • asynchronous“, i.e. where all communication is conducted through certified email.

Once participating parties have expressed a favourable opinion, the proceeding body approves the outcome and declares the conference concluded. If the outcome is favourable, the project is executed.

Execution of the intervention

In accordance with European legislation, the intervention can be carried out under direct administration of the body promoting the intervention or by contracting out to firms in accordance with the procedures laid down in the above-mentioned “contract code” mentioned previously.

Realising a forestry intervention is anything but easy. These interventions require not only good technical forestry knowledge, but also an understanding of the related administrative procedures and norms. In urban areas, this is further complicated by the involvement of many different stakeholders and sectors. Therefore, there is a need for multidisciplinary and transversal training in urban forestry, covering all the aspects of a forestry intervention. This is Uforest’s goal: create training opportunities to provide urban foresters with all the necessary skills to promote greener cities. 


Gianluca Maffoni, Erica Alghisi (ERSAF)