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Urban-rural interdependencies: Partnerships, planning and policies
Nordregio.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8788-0044
2003 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The terms urban and rural are commonly used in an oppositional or compartmentalised fashion. Policies promoting regional development have similarly been developed by urban or rural authorities and agencies with little cross referencing. This paper argues that compartmentalisation is not always the best mechanism and that there are benefits to be gained by taking an integrated urban-rural approach focusing on commonalities, complementarities  and links rather than differences. Literature and policy documents at the European Union, national and regional levels are increasingly stressing interdependencies placing a new emphasis on functional regions and sub-regions rather than dichotomised town and country.


This paper presents the results of research into joint working between urban and rural local authorities in Britain. Local authorities, together with other public and private partners, have increasingly engaged in cross-boundary collaboration to address issues relating to sustainable regional development in the widest sense. The paper reports primary research in the United Kingdom into the scale and scope of such collaboration. In terms of scale, it is clear that joint working between urban and rural partners is increasingly common. This way of working has been promoted and supported by national agencies such as the Local Government Association and the Countryside Agency. With regards to scale, there is a very wide range of projects where urban-rural collaboration is used to address issues ranging from transport planning, sustainability and environment issues, via economic development, tourism and job creation to social exclusion, health and youth issues. Projects also range in size from just a few partners to over 30; from very small budgets to budgets well over £35 million; and from short term projects to long term initiatives of up to seven years plans and earmarked funding.


Alongside a literature review, the research is based on a national postal questionnaire survey and telephone interviews with key informants in selected case studies. It reports the experiences of partners and benefits and challenges of urban-rural joint working. The paper also discusses urban-rural joint working in the light of the European spatial policy agenda, particularly in relation to the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP), the European Spatial Observatory Network (ESPON) and the Study Programme on European Spatial Planning (SPESP) and European funding programmes such as Interreg. Does the European agenda, and funding opportunities, inspire and facilitate joint working at regional and sub-regional levels? Or, is urban-rural joint working the result of a pragmatic ‘bottom-up’ approach to address issues that demand collaboration at a different geographical scale than that of individual local authorities? What scope is there for exchange of best practice between different regions and across national boundaries regarding this way of working?


The paper concludes that the urban-rural interdependency perspective can be developed as a useful tool to increase our understanding of sustainable regional development. It can provide a framework to aide spatial planning in the widest sense at the regional and sub-regional levels. At a more theoretical level, the urban-rural interdependency perspective has the potential to contribute to the development of a social economy approach to regional development.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
urban-rural interdependencies, regional planning, regional policies, partnerships, United Kingdom, European spatial policies
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Human Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-27284OAI: diva2:622163
Regional Studies Association conference ‘Reinventing Regions in a Global Economy’, Pisa, Italy, 12-15 April 2003
Available from: 2013-05-20 Created: 2013-05-20 Last updated: 2016-03-21Bibliographically approved

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Dahlström, Margareta
Social and Economic Geography

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