Land readjustment in Braga Municipality - Looking into the future, learning from the past


  • Ines Calor CEGOT - Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Porto - Portugal
  • Mateus Magarotto CEGOT - Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Porto - Portugal
  • Martinho Augusto GIPP and University of Porto




Land readjustment, a promising but often overlooked method, faces several challenges in Portugal and is often perceived as “theoretically attractive but eternally postponed in practice” (Condessa et al, 2018). Aligned with the principles of the French model (Larsson, 1997), this process searches for the balance between urban expansion and sustainable development, placing the primary responsibility on landowners. Braga, like many rapidly growing cities, faces the imperative to accommodate a growing population while preserving environmental integrity. The tension between these two objectives often manifests in conflicting land use demands and the need for equitable distribution of resources.  While the concept of land readjustment holds promise for sustainable development, its implementation encounters hurdles that impact its effectiveness and infrastructure challenges, particularly regarding responsibility for implementation and required financial resources (van der Krabben & Needham, 2008).

The Braga Master Plan, a crucial instrument of municipal territorial management, has been central in the shaping of Braga, addressing challenges such as demographic increase, infrastructure demands, economic development, and landscape preservation. The current plan, published in 2015, already incorporates land readjustment tools, mandatory by national law. However, with few exceptions, the municipality was unable to promote successful land readjustment.

The ongoing deep revision of the Braga Master requires a reconsideration of territorial management options, particularly concerning land readjustment. The new version of the plan aims to be innovative in Portugal, overcoming challenges observed in previous cases in Braga Municipality and similar international contexts. Concurrently, the streamlining of execution processes, with defined timelines, financial allocations, accountability measures, and charges imposed in the municipality's financial instruments, signifies a move towards responsible planning, departing from decades of operational inefficiencies in spatial planning.

This paper focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of the upcoming Braga Master Plan to facilitate sustainable development, primarily by optimizing the efficacy of land readjustment initiatives.

The methodology is rooted in the analysis of three land readjustment cases in Braga Municipality. Leveraging the authors' collaboration with this institution, the factors influencing the success and failure of land adjustment initiatives are analysed. Specific process indicators aid in measuring the implementation of various program activities, including inputs, activities, outputs, and expected outcomes. Through a literature review, a comparison with other international systems is conducted to explore new possibilities for overcoming setbacks.

The analysis reveals that the primary constraints in Braga cases relate to fragmented land ownership, impeding agreements; legal and regulatory complexity causing uncertainty and delays; financial constraints due to the socioeconomic structure of landowners and local authorities; stakeholder resistance stemming from an intrinsic "sense of ownership"; and infrastructure challenges, coupled with responsibility for implementation and required financial resources. Ensuring transparent, legally sound land transactions aligned with the Plan's objectives becomes challenging.

Conclusions point out that while land readjustment holds immense potential for transforming urban landscapes and fostering sustainable development in Portugal, overcoming these challenges is paramount. Addressing fragmented land ownership, streamlining regulatory processes, securing funding, and fostering community support are essential steps towards successful land readjustment projects in the country. In addition, strengthening the legal bases governing land readjustment is imperative to promote investor and community confidence.


Condessa, B., Morais de Sá, A., Almeida, J., Ferreira, J.A. (2018). ‘Land readjustment in Portugal: theoretically attractive but eternally postponed in practice’, in Gerber J.-D., Hartmann, T., Hengstermann, A. (Eds.), Instruments of Land Policy – Dealing with Scarcity of Land, Routledge, ISBN: 9781138201514.

Larsson, G. (1997). Land readjustment: A tool for urban development. Habitat International, 21(2), 141-152.

van der Krabben, E., & Needham, B. (2008). Land Readjustment for Value Capturing: A New Planning Tool for Urban Redevelopment. The Town Planning Review, 79(6), 651-672.