Citizens' jury after referendum

15. October 2022

In a referendum in September 2021, the voters in the German city of Amberg rejected the city's plans to build on the Bürgerspital site. At the same time, they voted for a new participation procedure. In order to resolve the conflict, the city in the Upper Palatinate opted for a citizens' jury. This jury started its work on 15 October 2022.

With the project "Living at Spitalgraben', the city wanted, among other things, to enable barrier-free living for young and old and to create attractive shopping facilities. A neighbourhood garage for the residents of the old town was also to be built. From the city's point of view, the project would have offered contemporary, city-centre-oriented and ecological architecture with a high quality of stay.

Citizen participation 2017

According to the city, this mix of uses as a goal for the Old Town had met with approval at a public participation event on the building project in April 2017. Ten Brinke-Projektentwicklungs-GmbH was the winner of an architectural competition for the design of the project.

The "Interessengemeinschaft Menschengerechte Stadt" (Interest Group for a Humane City) had initiated a popular initiative against this project. The initiative had criticised that the city of Amberg wanted to sell public property, which originated from a 700-year-old royal foundation for social purposes, to a foreign real estate company. The IG considered the building project on the site, which at around 5,000 square metres was comparatively large for the centre of Amberg, to be "extremely questionable for urban development":

Argument monument protection

The building planned at the time would have been located in the listed ensemble of the historic old town in the immediate vicinity of the Spitalkirche, the business school and the Ringtheater. In the opinion of the interest group, the building complex, which was planned purely functionally and was almost 65 metres long, would not have fitted into this environment. It also did not comply in any way with the building design statutes that otherwise apply to the old town.

The interest group also felt that the project would have had a negative impact on the city's climate. The planned flats lacked specifications for social housing. Furthermore, the initiative saw the planned underground car park exits and a planned supermarket as problematic. Moreover, the property was the city's silverware. With the sale and the project-related development plan, the city would have given away its options for action in urban development in the long run, criticised the interest group. In the referendum on 26 September 2021, a majority of the voters found this argument convincing.

Citizens' jury to develop ideas for use

The site of the former Bürgerspital is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas in Amberg's city centre. The Bürgerspital buildings were part of Amberg's old town for centuries. After the retirement home housed in them was able to move into a modern new building, the buildings were demolished in 2015. The citizens' jury that has now been set up is to develop ideas for what should happen to the site, which has been empty ever since. Mayor Michael Cerny (CSU) is "very excited about the result (...) of a very modern approach to citizen participation".

The citizens' jury includes 40 randomly selected Amberg residents who will come together for five sessions. In order to achieve the greatest possible diversity of perspectives, a group of people was randomly selected by the residents' registration office and then contacted by the city administration. The final citizens' jury members were then selected from the group of citizens interested in participating.

Advisory board of interest groups

The members of the citizens' jury are supported by an advisory board of representatives from different interest groups. These include representatives from the Youth Welfare Office, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Economic Development, Culture and the Amberg Inclusion Alliance. The IG Menschengerechte Stadt is also involved.

The participants of the citizens' jury are trained by experts in the fields of urban development, monument protection, sustainable building and climate protection. In several workshops, the jury members will develop their ideas for the future of the Bürgerspital site. On 5 December 2022, the citizens' juryl will then present its recommendations to the city council.

Read more