Planning rural futures

Authored by: Mark Scott , Nick Gallent , Menelaos Gkartzios

The Routledge Companion to Rural Planning

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138104051
eBook ISBN: 9781315102375
Adobe ISBN:


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Rural planning has, over the last 50 years, been relegated to the margins of planning theory and practice (see Lapping, 2006; Gallent and Scott, 2017). Yet, despite growing urbanisation, rural populations remain sizeable and politically important. Predominantly rural regions account for a quarter of the population across OECD countries, while globally the rural population stands at 46 per cent (UN, 2018). Moreover, a high proportion of land, even in advanced and otherwise urbanised countries, hosts rural land uses and is characterised by its openness. For example, while Europe is one of the most urbanised continents on the globe, agricultural land and forests represent around 85 per cent of land cover across the 28 EU Member States (CEC, 2018). At this basic, but fundamental level, rural regions provide the backcloth for a range of crucial planning issues (Frank and Hibbard, 2017) such as renewable energy deployment, the management and enhancement of ecosystem services, food production and security, and natural resource exploitation and management. Alongside their traditional primary sector functions, these regions are increasingly shaped by new consumption patterns and the commodification of the countryside (through heritage, tradition, lifestyle, landscape, etc.), generating a range of threats but also opening up opportunities to transform rural economies. As Woods highlighted in the previous chapter, the ‘value’ of the rural environment is increasingly underpinned by its cultural or recreational appeal rather than in its use for production; yet the shift towards a consumption-based economy involves different priorities for land management and planning. These competing functions, uses and demands for rural space and resources, which overlap the distinctive and multiple social representations of the rural, present unique planning challenges that are deserving of critical planning attention as rural localities become subject to contentious and controversial change processes, transforming them into arenas of deeply contested planning decision-making.

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