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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Potential population change in EU metropolitan areas, 2011

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Map
 

  • Urban size in population brings certain benefits, but it also has its cost. In most European cities costs and benefits related to urban size appear to hold a balance
  • In some of the mainly medium鈥恠ized cities the benefits of the size in terms of attractiveness, diversity in economic base, qualified labour force and R&D involvement outweigh the costs. This is particularly visible in cities such as Lisbon, Edinburgh, Florence, or Tallinn
  • In larger cities, costs of the size related to property price levels, criminality and presence of green spaces outweigh the benefits. To this group belong cities such as Barcelona, London, Berlin, Prague, or Rome

Observations for policy

Urban size brings certain benefits, but it also comes at a cost. In most European cities investigated, costs and benefits of the urban size appear to hold a balance. However, in some cities the costs outweigh the benefits and in some it is the other way around.

Developing urban quality, urban amenities and attracting highly qualified labour force is due to generate enhanced attractiveness and competitiveness, once again supporting a wider, more diversified urban realm. A potentially beneficial and virtuous cycle of urban development may be triggered along these lines.

Policy context

The importance of cities for European territorial development is not at least underlined by EU regional policies and the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities. At the same time it is widely accepted that cities are considered to be the engines of economic development. Cities are also at the frontline when it comes to tackling obstacles to growth and employment, such as social exclusion and environmental degradation. But very often urban and regional policy debates question the optimal size of urban areas. The same applies to the number of inhabitants.

Map interpretation

The map is based on the idea that urban population size implies both benefits and costs for the city. Size is therefore a dual concept representing a joint source of positive as well as negative externalities for city dwellers. The map shows to what degree a city has reached the situation where the benefits (i.e. attractiveness, diversity of the economic base, high levels of skills and R&D involvement) and the costs of its size (i.e. property price levels, criminality, and green spaces) balance between each other to reach the equilibrium.

Most European cities are close to such equilibrium indicating good preconditions for futher urban growth. Besides, there are two smaller groups of cities with important deviations:

  • Those with strong positive under-utilised growth potentials, indicating that the preconditions may allow for further urban growth. This is predominantly the case for medium-sized cities, where the benefits of the size outweigh the costs. This group is made up of cities such as Lisbon, Edinburgh, Florence, or Tallinn;
  • Those showing negative growth potentials, and indicating that conditions for further urban growth might not be obvious. In those cases the costs of the size outweigh the benefits. This is mostly the case for cities such as Barcelona, London, Berlin, Prague, or Rome.

Concepts and methods

The map is based on a spatial equilibrium model bringing together the total costs, the total urban benefits and the size of a city. The indicators used are the following:

  • Size: Population levels in 59 Large Urban Zones (LUZ);
  • Benefits: tourist inflows, sectoral diversity index, population density, number of participants in FP5 projects over labour force, and workforce in ISCO professions 1 and 2 over total labour force;
  • Costs: average cost of quality apartment per m2, number of crimes per 1,000 population per year, percentage of non-built up area of the total area.

As there is no comprehensive list of metropolitan regions in Europe to test the empirical model, the map merely illustrates a sample of 59 LUZs from the Urban Audit data collection.


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