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Building new relationships in rural areas under urban pressure

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Addressing the rural-urban divide

Rural areas are experiencing new relationships with their urban counterparts, but not without cost. A study examining rural areas from Spain to Finland published its findings in a report which stresses the importance of sustainable development.

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Rural areas in Europe need to be protected and encouraged to flourish both economically and socially. The aim of the research project 'Building New Relationships in Rural Areas under Urban Pressure', BUILDING RURBAN RELA, is to readdress the balance offset by the difference in support given to those who make their living working outside of the city. Rural areas need support to provide rural goods and services (RGS) related to the landscape and to get compensation payments by new relationships with urban society. RGS include: first and second houses, tourism and gastronomy with agri-food marketing. The project analyses the relationships between rural and urban actors in order to assess each actor's' role in enhancing the diversity of rural landscapes. The research institute involved in the project has now published a report which summarises the results. This provides a summary of the key factors in the supply and demand of rural goods and services. It explains that demand originates from urban people for whom it has now become important to live and recreate in a rural setting, but who work in towns inside or outside the region. The demands placed on the rural landscape for housing and facilities could potentially conflict. Planning the use of rural space for public activities such as recreation parks needs to make use of zoning, compensation payments and agreements, procedures that have been implemented in cities for decades now. A main conclusion that came out of the report is that 'commodification without destruction' is crucial to the demand and supply of RGS in rural areas. Looking at the evidence, the report describes Finnish, Hungarian and Spanish rural areas to have experienced quite high levels of commodification, whereas the opposite was found to be true of the rural French and Dutch areas studied.

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