Copus Andrew, Urban-Rural Relationships in the new century: Clarifying and updating the intervention logic


Effective Instruments Supporting Territorial Development

This paper seeks to clarify the rationale for policy which aims to stimulate growth by strengthening urban-rural linkages. It argues that since growth pole theory failed to deliver in the 1980s there has been a tendency for spatial planning and regional development policy documents to rely upon a range of concepts, such as ‘city regions’ and ‘urban-rural partnerships’ without fully articulating the underpinning ‘intervention logic’. Cities are described as ‘the engines of growth’, and rural spill-over benefits, driven by the increasing interconnectedness of functional areas, are assumed to follow. However a poorly developed, or implicit, rationale conveys a risk that implementation of policy to support urban-rural linkages will tacitly draw on anachronistic stereotypes, rather than acknowledging the twenty-first century realities of a globalised rural
economy and society.

This paper proposes a way in which this ‘theory deficit’ may be addressed. It is first argued that rural-urban relationships can take so many different forms that it is necessary to disaggregate the intervention logic into a number of ‘segments’ or ‘layers’, each of which addresses a different ‘market failure’ or inefficiency, and each of which enhances urban-rural synergies in a specific way.

Secondly it is very important to acknowledge the fact that today’s rural economies and societies are becoming less geographically constrained in their linkages: Interaction with nearby cities in many cases accounts for a declining proportion of total ‘network traffic’. This change affects some forms of interaction more than others. It is therefore argued that urban-rural policy interventions should be designed to operate within three distinct spatial contexts. In addition to conventional city-hinterland interventions, ‘generic’ (non-contiguous) urban-rural policies, and programmes which foster ‘translocal globalisation’ among rural businesses, should be considered.

The paper draws upon the findings of the ESPON ‘EDORA’ project and Framework 7 project ‘DERREG’.