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The role of small and medium-sized towns in rural development

Using a methodology previously developed and tested by one of the partners, this project will measure the economic linkages between small and medium-sized towns and the surrounding countryside in order to assess their present and potential role as growth poles in rural development. The methodology also provides an indication of the local employment and income impact of different types of economic activity in these towns and their surrounding hinterland. By studying a suitable sample of towns within different types of rural area and across a range of conditions in the existing and enlarged European Union, it provides soundly based advice to policy-makers at EU, national and regional levels who are seeking to foster sustainable rural development.

Objectives
The objectives of this project are:
1) to measure the flow of goods, services and labour between firms and households in a purposely-selected sample of small and medium-sized towns and their surrounding countryside
2) to use this information to compare the degree of local economic integration of different types and size of town, firm and household
3) to draw conclusions and make recommendations for those at EU, national and local levels seeking to stimulate more diversified economic activities and employment opportunities in rural areas
4) to provide an accessible source of spatially referenced microeconomic data to those seeking to model the future impact of EU policies on the rural economy.

Progress to Date
A pilot survey has been conducted in Peso da Ręgua by the Portuguese team from April to July 2002. Then face-to-face questionnaires in six small and medium-sized Portuguese towns were done.

Results
Findings in the fllowing areas were collated and reported on in the final report:
Construction of economic footprints
Bivariate analyses of local economic integration
Multivariate analyses of local economic integration and economic behaviour
Results from the construction of local social accounting matrices.

The service sector was most likely to establish local linkages and to help generate local growth.
In the UK and France, the sectors that best support local employment were found to be the banking and financial services sector, machinery, metals and computing, and the food and drink industries.
Looking at the most appropriate spatial distribution of development in rural areas, output and employment multipliers were found to be usually greatest in the hinterlands, and household income and wage income were greater in town locations.
Whether development agencies should encourage inward investment into small- and medium-sized towns or foster business start-ups is an important rural development issue.
The project assessed whether local stakeholders had a good appreciation of the functioning of the rural economies in their own localities.
The relationship between workplace location and household shopping patterns was assessed as a means of identifying the economic impact of commuting.
The project investigated whether by supporting agriculture, society would also support rural communities.

Classified in CAP AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

Scientist responsible for the project

Ms ANGELA PETTIT
Earley Gate Box 237
RG6 6AR Reading
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1189 318977
Fax: +44 1189 318979
E-mail: a.s.pettit@reading.ac.uk

References

Project ID QLRT-2000-01923
Organisation THE UNIVERSITY OF READING
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 September 2001
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 2 101 852 €
Total EC contribution   1 598 759 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • INSTITUTE OF RURAL AND AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT POLISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCE, Poland - PL
    irwir@irwirpan.waw.pl
  • ETABLISSEMENT NATIONAL D'ENSEIGNEMENT SUPERIEUR AGRONOMIQUE DE DIJON, France - FR
    roineau@dijon.inra.fr
  • INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE AGRONOMIQUE, France - FR
  • UNIVERSIDADE DE TRAS-OS-MONTES E ALTO DOURO, Portugal - PT
    fdiniz@utad.pt
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