Master Thesis: A future with shrinkage - What is a suitable policy response to shrinkage?
Urban shrinkage is an increasingly important phenomenon. While thinking in terms of growth has always dominated urban planning, declining populations result in challenges about economic viability, housing market, provision and quality of facilities, liveability, and regional politics.
The aim of this research project is to study the causes and effects of urban shrinkage, consider the use of traditional and alternative planning tools, and provide recommendations for making policy in response to the phenomenon. In order to develop recommendations, history and theory of urban shrinkage are combined with practical findings of a case study of shrinkage in city region Parkstad Limburg. The boundaries of this research lie at the focus on urban shrinkage. However, due to the presence of rural areas within or near to city regions, it is required to include the rural regions as well, for example in discussions about spatial planning. Nevertheless, the focus of this research lies on shrinkage in urban regions.
The study is opened with the composition of a theoretical framework (chapter 1), which leads to the formulation of a conceptual model (appendix 1). Then a set of hypotheses is developed, and the methodological aspects of this research are discussed (chapter 2). Subsequently a consideration of shrinkage and planning in the Netherlands (chapter 3) forms the preamble to the actual case study of Parkstad Limburg (chapter 4), which is also used to judge the hypotheses. The development of recommendations (chapter 5) is based on the relations between the theoretical framework and the case study of Parkstad Limburg, which are summarised in the same chapter. Finally this study ends with a conclusion that answers the main research question: “What is a suitable policy response to shrinkage?”
- Depending on the regional specific context of shrinkage, a suitable policy response to shrinkage consists of: accepting shrinkage, developing a long-term vision on the future of the region, including the inhabitants in their own future, restructuring the housing market, and intensive regional collaboration.
Aiming for these key terms of making policy in response to shrinkage it is important to create awareness about shrinkage among governors, policy makers, and inhabitants. If shrinkage remains a governmental issue, it cannot be expected that the inhabitants will agree with awkward decisions.
Moreover, the inhabitants are essential to participate in the development of a long-term future perspective for the region. It is important to create possibilities for inhabitants and entrepreneurs to develop initiatives that contribute to the liveability and viability of the region.
In order to remain attractive for inhabitants and entrepreneurs, shrinking cities require a recognisable and positive regional identity that is broadly supported by the society. This can be stimulated by using alternative planning tools like art and culture, communication, and social empowerment.
Economic developments must be stimulated by making use of and giving space to the knowledge of actors in the field. It is essential to involve and trust the capabilities of economic stakeholders, for example by working in public-private partnerships and stimulating entrepreneurship.
Shrinkage requires short-term interventions to cope with and prevent aggravation of the unbalanced housing market and declining liveability in the neighbourhoods.
Shrinkage is not the end of urban life. On the contrary, there is a future with shrinkage and it is up to all regional stakeholders to participate.
University of Amsterdam
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
2009 – 2010
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