Rediscovering the rural–urban fringe

A hybrid opportunity space for rural planning

Authored by: Alister Scott

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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The spaces where rural and urban meet are ‘messy’ and complicated, providing a problematic arena within which future land-use change is planned, contested, mediated and delivered as part of wider place-making agendas. However, the rural fringe is ill-defined, hidden and often incidental in place-making processes and decisions and, despite its growing significance spatially and functionally, it has received scant attention as a place in its own right. Rather it has been attached to urban-centric agendas based on densification and SMART growth with implicit rural subservience and protection. This chapter argues that the dualism and prioritisation of urban and rural space is unhelpful and over simplistic, hindering more holistic considerations of fringe opportunity spaces. To overcome these limitations, this chapter explores the rural fringe within a framework from a theoretical nexus of spatial planning and ecosystem science paradigms which aids the diagnosis, planning and management of key challenges. This place-based approach to rural fringe planning uses case studies from England, South Africa and Sweden to expose the fallacy of traditional economic tools and models in accounting for the value of the rural fringe and its consequential land-use decisions and signposts positive agendas for rural planning using the fringe explicitly in future planning interventions.

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