Langau, Lower Austria, Austria

The municipality Langau with its some 1,075 inhabitants is characterized by its lack of transport connections and its peripheral location right by the border to the Czech Republic. As part of the Iron Curtain, this border allowed no interaction and thus enhanced the effects of the isolated location. When several important businesses of the town were shut down during the early 1990s – such as a dairy and a small brown coal mine – the loss of employment resulted in a bad economic situation and financial weakness. This lead to the migration of especially younger people and thus to a drastic shift in the age pyramid.

At the same time, these developments triggered the de-liberate decision to put an end to the dying of this municipality. Through two phases, general outlines as well as development aims were worked out in collaboration with the inhabitants and gradually implemented. In the beginning the main focus was put on improving the infrastructure as well as tending to the overall appearance of the locality and boosting clubs. Several years ago, however, new aims were found. An emphasis was put on aspects such as education, social infrastructure, rural conservation, culture and sustainable tourism. By defining itself as a place for recreation for both inhabitants and foreign guests, the municipality succeeded to develop a distinct image with unique character.

One of the key projects in this context was revitalizing the area around the former mine, especially the mine lake. The lake was turned into an attractive leisure center with great recreational value. The area surrounding the lake was used to build a camp site, and farm vacations, private accommodation and guest houses gained importance. A lot of attention was paid to the protection of the environment and nature, alternative forms of energy were established and agriculture was extensively turned into biological cultivation.

Enhancing the social cohesion has been the major aim dur-ing the entire development process of the municipality. Aside from the leisure center, the main focus was not the implementation of massive lighthouse projects, but the optimization of life quality through numerous small projects from which all the inhabitants should profit. Thus it was even more important to closely interlink all of these projects with help from experts and a clear development concept.

The municipality especially supports its numerous clubs, which are also responsible for the organization of the enormous voluntary commitment of the inhabitants. Thanks to copious smaller and larger projects, Langau was recently and repeatedly awarded as the most youth-friendly municipality in Lower Austria. Also remarkable are the major improvements in terms of contact and relation to the Czech neighbors, which are reflected in several of these small projects.

Using both traditional and modern tools of communication, the intense and diverse work in the fields of information and communication between municipality and its inhabitants is outstanding. The population is very involved in decisions, work and formation concerning the municipality.

Evaluated: 2014