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The RELOCAL project will undertake a critical review of the literature about spatial justice associated with territorial cohesion, sustainable development and solidarity and develop a theoretical framework for the project through the review of these concepts and European territorials models.

The notion of spatial justice targets balanced and sustainable spatial development. But it is not exclusively jobs or factors directly related to job markets that are at issue, fairness requires that attention be paid to a variety of social needs which are oftentimes group specific (e.g. youth, elderly, persons with impaired mobility). One challenging aspect in this regard is linking the European Cohesion Policy debate more directly to ethical questions that have been raised in political and social theory regarding “fairness” and “justice” (see Dabinett 2010, McKay, Murray and MacIntyre 2102 and many others).

As an element of spatial justice in territorial cohesion, fairness would require greater social understanding, more targeted engagement with different groups and their specific needs, and sensitivity to questions of access, opportunity an local capabilities. An important step in advancing current debate regarding the role of place-based development, local strategies and sustainability within broader understandings of cohesion would be to elaborate notions of locale and the significance of the local in terms of theoretical conceptualisations, development scenarios and potential policy options. For this reason, it is necessary to adopts a bottom-up focus on place-making as a continuous and iterative process of defining community needs and aspirations that at the same time is embedded within different scales of policy definition and delivery.

The adoption of the policy objective of territorial cohesion at the EU-level has also sparked interest in “territorial capital” which encompasses “a wide variety of territorial assets, both tangible and intangible, of a private, public or mixed nature” (Camagni & Capello, 2013). Furthermore, to emphasise locale means to take seriously the idea that all territorial assets and services of general interest are both shaped by place as well as themselves place-shaping factors. On this view Cohesion Policy would need to focus more attention on the role of social services (child care, health care, education), social entrepreneurship, housing and group-specific services which have important spatial components as anchors of local community and locale-building.

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