International Handbook of Urban Policy, Volume 1
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International Handbook of Urban Policy, Volume 1

Contentious Global Issues

Edited by H. S. Geyer

This first Handbook in a series of three original reference works looks at globally contentious urban policy issues from a wide variety of different angles and perspectives. Matters related to urban densification, population mobility, urban inequality and sustainability are analysed in a manner that will not only interest the advanced student but also the novice.
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Chapter 3: Defining ‘Urban’: The Disappearing Urban–Rural Divide

A. G. Champion


3 Defining ‘urban’: the disappearing urban–rural divide A.G. Champion Introduction For those concerned with urban policy, it is axiomatic that there should be an understanding of, and indeed agreement about, what the ‘urban’ refers to and, equally, what urban policy is not designed for. The traditional approach takes this dichotomous form using a place-based classification, with separate policy packages being developed for the urban and the rural parts of national territories. Yet, even in the early days of land use planning, it was recognized that there was no clear divide between the two, as, for instance, in the successive Town and Country Planning Acts in Britain from 1947. Indeed, a major goal of such measures around the world appears to have been the reversal of the ‘blurring’ tendency, with particular attention being given to curbing urban sprawl. On the other hand, even where building controls have achieved some success in maintaining an urban–rural contrast in physical terms, many of the other distinctions between urban and rural areas have continued to fade. This chapter has two main objectives: first, to describe and account for the ‘blurring’ process that is leading to the disappearance of the urban–rural divide and, second, to discuss what this means for the development and implementation of policies that are specifically urban in design and coverage. It begins by briefly setting the context for the disappearance of the divide, focusing on the ‘urban transition’ and the associated erosion of the ‘rural’....

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