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The significance of the size of towns for spatial planning – an empirical study on the relation of planning tasks and planning practice to the size of towns

Year of completion: 2008

Editor: Rüdiger, Andrea

Publication: 2009; ISBN 978-3-8300-4317-1 at Verlag Dr. Kovac

Table of contents: please click here.

Dr.-Ing. Andrea Rüdiger

Links: ESPON Projekt: Die Rolle von Klein- und Mittelstädten


Abstract (Ph.D proposal):

Since the emergence of towns the acting of their political-administrative entities has been the subject of research. An analysis of this acting in relation to the size of towns has only occurred in research on the entire system of cities and towns. Scientific findings - mainly in the field of geography – have focused on tasks, functions and roles of small and medium sized towns within large geographic contexts. The concept of Central Places has been one of the most remarkable results of this research.

Only few studies complement this external perspective on differences of urban spaces and functions with a size-specific differentiation of the planning practice of municipalities. The scientific planning literature contains hardly any findings on planning practice in relation to the size of towns that goes beyond considering more than a single town. In some of these case studies assumptions have been developed relating planning practice to size of towns.

The currently discussed need for change in planning practice affects small and medium sized town in a particular way. In the planning literature it is frequently warned that planning systems, methodologies and structures derived from development plans and strategies of large cities cannot be simply transferred to smaller towns. At the same time it is pointed out that the reduced scale of planning - compared to major cities – is not matched by reduced complexity of planning issues. The statements imply an assumption that the number of residents is a relevant and noteworthy structural characteristic of a city or town.

However, these general statements are not based on findings of empirical research. This deficit is the starting point for this study.

Central themes and hypotheses in the planning literature since the enactment of the federal German Planning Legislation (Baugesetzbuch) in 1960 will be categorised and compared to the planning practice in (small and) medium sized towns. Based on a countrywide survey of all - approximately 600 - towns with between 20000 and 100000 residents methods, instruments, procedures and structures of spatial planning will be analysed in relation to the size of the towns. Hypotheses on the understanding of planning in towns of different sizes will be verified in qualitative interviews with selected experts. The findings will be compared to the findings of the quantitative survey.

The objective of the research is to understand whether and how the size of towns influences the local planning practice. In explorative research it is principally impossible to anticipate all results in hypotheses. The relevance of the findings of the literature analysis will be assessed guided by the identified needs of spatial planning to respond to demographic change.

The study report will document a broad spectrum of municipal planning practices in the surveyed (small and) medium sized towns. It will verify – or eventually falsify – selected theses of the planning discourse of the last 40 years.