Long-term processes of urbanisation and agglomeration in Europe pose complex but crucial questions for regional policymakers. There are substantial national and sub-national differences in the size and spatial distribution of urban developments and the pace and direction of urbanisation but a fundamental challenge is how to address the ‘urban paradox’. This means simultaneously supporting the economic engine of urban agglomerations while counteracting social and economic inequalities arising within urban areas and between urban centres and other territories. Global ‘megatrends’, including digitalisation and technological progress, demographic transition and climate change have specific urban impacts that further underline the importance of regional policy interventions in urban development processes. Increasing policy attention is also being paid to the role of socalled ‘second order’ or medium-sized towns outside of large urban agglomerations in supporting territorially balanced development. In designing interventions that address urban development processes, regional policymakers must engage with a range of economic, social and environmental issues and measures which often overlap in terms of scope, spatial scales, remits and priorities. Regulatory, institutional or administrative barriers must also be overcome. Recent regional policy initiatives are responding to this by following the ‘place-based’ model and pursuing an integrated approach. Integrated interventions are capturing complex interactions between urban and regional development. Policy governance initiatives, including organisational reforms at national or sub-national levels and increasingly prominent negotiated or ‘deal based’ structures are coordinating inputs from national, regional and urban stakeholders. New development strategies are providing frameworks for increased coordination of regional and urban priorities, either through delineating functional spaces or by setting specific thematic objectives, for instance covering the role of cities in innovation or sustainable development. Particularly prominent in these interventions are the exploration of urban-rural linkages, the evolution of the ‘smart city’ agenda and the use of negotiated city-region strategies. The COVID-19 crisis is raising important questions for policymakers addressing the relationship between urban and regional development. There are strong arguments for further integration but the pressures created by the pandemic could prompt policy divergence.


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Ferry, M. & den Hoed, W. 2020, Regional Policy and the Urban Paradox : Reinforcing the Urban Dimension in a Time of Crisis, EoRPA Regional Policy Research Consortium. Available at: https://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/75671/

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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