Resolution No. 1 on The guidelines for the planning of rural areas in Europe
1. The 4th European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning was held in Vienna from 5 to 7 October 1978 at the invitation of the Austrian Government. It was attended by ministers and government representatives from the following member states: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.
Representatives of Finland, Liechtenstein, Yugoslavia and the Commission of the European Community, and representatives from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) were also present as observers.
2. The conference expresses its deepest appreciation to the Austrian Government for organising the fourth session and for its generous hospitality, and to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for its support.
3. It expresses its sincere thanks to the Parliamentary Assembly which has consistently encouraged it in the promotion of European co-operation in the field of regional planning and reaffirms its considerable interest in the dialogue between parliamentarians and ministers on subjects of common interest.
4. It also thanks the Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe for its valuable support, and in this connection emphasises the importance that, in accordance with the ideas developed at La Grande Motte and Bari, it attaches to the democratic nature of regional planning.
5. Its thanks go to all those international organisations that regularly follow its meetings, whose efforts to achieve their common objectives it greatly appreciates.
6. Finally, it wishes to pay tribute to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the secretariat of the conference for the commitment and devotion they have evidenced throughout the preparatory work for this session, and for the effective support they have given to all the activities of the conference.
II. Towards a European regional planning policy
1. With a view to concerting national regional planning policies in Europe, the ministers decided to meet regularly and consider the major problems raised by the evolution of European society and the contribution that regional planning could make towards solving them.
2. The ministers recall that the general objective of their meetings was, in the framework of the constant exchange of experience and information on regional planning policies, to explore in depth questions of political topicality and to strive jointly towards a harmonious distribution of human activities and therefore towards a balanced regional development, thus laying the foundations of a European strategy for regional planning.
In this context, they express the hope that their co-operation will develop in as wide a geographical framework as possible, according to the provisions of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
3. Having defined at their first two sessions (Bonn 1970 and La Grande Motte 1973) the major options of regional planning policies, and following up with their 3rd Conference on the control of urbanisation (Bari 1976), at their fourth session the ministers examined the major objectives to be adopted for the future development of rural areas, bearing in mind the relationship of town and countryside and particularly the organisational consequences for rural areas of metropolitan areas and main development and communication axes.
4. The ministers, having seen the joint report presented by the Belgian and German delegations, and taking into account the national reports on the situation and the policies implemented in the various countries, thank the two delegations for their fruitful co-operation which has led to a convergent approach and to the introduction of a new dimension into their discussions on European regional planning.
III. Problems of rural areas in Europe
A. The general situation
1. The ministers note the severity of the problems caused in the rural world by modern society which, by undue polarisation of human activities and the increasing concentration of facilities in large conurbations, is causing rural depopulation.
2. They consider that rural areas have a vital part to play in contemporary society, by performing a multiplicity of functions that are critical for social, economic – particularly as concerns agriculture – and cultural development. They recall that this role is performed not only at regional and national level but at a European level, and they are therefore led to attach particular importance to those wide areas whose balanced development is at present endangered.
3. The ministers stress that the decline or underdevelopment in rural areas cannot be regarded as an isolated phenomenon but represents a significant factor in the operation of the present socio-economic system, which calls for special policies for rural areas within the framework of an overall regional planning policy.
4. These policies are based on the following observations:
a. Agriculture is a major user of rural land and it is consequently important to maintain an economically viable agricultural system.
b. The decline of the countryside and the loss of population to urban areas threatens to add to economic and social imbalance, and consequently to aggravate the present economic crisis.
c. The rural exodus causes deterioration of infrastructure and facilities in rural- areas, although the trend towards the depopulation of rural areas is not always general nor inevitable.
d. The planning of rural areas based on their own system of values and specific potential – particularly as concerns agriculture – can be regarded as an important contribution towards remedying the present socio-economic imbalances.
e. The economic dependence of the rural world on the town, in particular of agriculture with industry, goes hand in hand with cultural dependence; the rural world is frequently subjected to cultural forces from the town, and man in a rural environment borrows his development models from the town. This can lead to loss of cultural identity and an absence of community projects.
f. Both at national and at European level, rural areas constitute an extremely important agricultural asset and biogenetic reserve, valuable both for the maintenance of the economic and ecological balance and for social and cultural development.
g. The problems of rural areas arise in Europe in accordance with a characteristic geographical pattern, which should be taken into account in any future European set of regional planning guidelines:
– the regions of the Scandinavian peninsula,
– the regions of central western Europe,
– the coastal peripheral and Mediterranean regions,
– the mountain areas.
B. The effects on rural areas of metropolitan areas and the axes
1. The ministers, basing their considerations on the close interdependence of rural and urban development, tried to define the effects on the rural world of metropolitan areas and axes and to draw general conclusions for the formulation of a specific development policy for these areas.
2. A study of the situation in the various countries reveals that the phenomenon of axes and metropolitan areas develops whatever use is made of the strategy of hierarchical axes and metropolitan areas as a regional planning instrument, and the following distribution became apparent:
– a zone in Central Europe with a high concentration of metropolitan areas and main lines of communication;
– a less-developed zone of metropolitan areas and main lines of communication around that central zone;
– a peripheral coastal zone with few or no metropolitan areas and main development axes.
3. The influence of metropolitan areas and main development axes on rural areas may be negative or positive. It is negative if it leads to urban concentration of development potential which, instead of being distributed throughout all the hierarchical levels of the structure, is mainly fostered in the metropolitan areas and around the main development axes. It is positive when it performs highly qualified and specialised functions in the exchange of goods and services for the products of the rural world.
Metropolitan areas and main development axes can have the following negative effects:
– aggravation of disparities between rural areas and local centres leading to intensification of the drift from the land by an absorption effect;
– more acute shortages of infrastructure facilities in rural areas, resulting in supplementary transport costs;
– an increase in the flow of exchanges of goods and services on communication axes between areas of urban concentration, to the detriment of rural areas;
– disorganisation and destruction of rural areas by the construction of high-speed routes between major urban centres.
On the other hand they can have the following positive effects on the development of rural areas:
– gradual reduction of infrastructure imbalances and shortages; connection of rural areas, particularly peripheral regions, with the long-distance exchange of goods and services, eradicating shortcomings in transport infrastructures;
– improvement of access for industrial products necessary for agriculture and for transport of agricultural produce to other regions;
– increased incentives for the establishment of industrial and commercial activities;
– improved access to recreation and relaxation areas and equal access for inhabitants of rural areas to the services offered by large urban areas;
– encouragement of decentralisation within highly concentrated areas to the benefit of rural areas;
– stimulus of the development of the whole territorial structure through priority development centres situated on development axes.
4. An inventory of the metropolitan areas and main development axes of the countries taking part in the conference is an important element in preparing a comprehensive scheme for regional planning in Europe. Although metropolitan areas and main development axes constitute only one element in a policy for planning rural areas, it is not possible to invest rural areas with necessary facilities nor assure their development if no account is taken of the positive or negative effects of urban centres and axes.
IV. Strategies and policies
The ministers consider that it is important to create a situation in which:
– the living conditions of different regions are as equivalent as possible, from the point of view of employment, income, housing, social services etc;
– an efficient management of agricultural natural resources is ensured;
– the requirements of ecological balance and the long-term problems of resources are taken into account.
These are the three main objectives of the planning of rural areas.
The attainment of these objectives entails:
– co-ordinated measures at regional and local level taken with the active participation of the population and taking account of different planning levels; it is only thus that decisions can be adjusted to the aspirations and traditions of rural society;
– planning at national level, setting out a framework for the use of natural resources of national importance and a general outline for the development and functions of the various centres; in this, planning guidelines should be adopted at the highest possible political level;
– a search for a regional planning policy at European level in order to provide an appropriate framework for the concertation of national and regional policies.
Towards more balanced development of rural areas
1. Any policy for rural areas must aim at developing a certain regional impetus, with a view to enabling country-dwellers to decide their own future.
The inability of the centralised system in nearly all cases to solve all the problems that result from the present-day development of society and to do away with regional imbalance calls for the definition of an appropriate policy of regionalisation and decentralisation. A part of this policy would be the attribution of public funds to the different levels of authorities as an instrument to foster rural regions.
2. The future of rural areas must be ensured by an overall regional planning policy applicable to these particular areas and to their various constituent parts. In following this line, the different functions of rural areas, their economic, ecological and socio-cultural aspects, must be regarded as of equal importance.
3. Present development trends can create conflict between the interests and aspirations of town and countryside. Accordingly, it is important for political bodies and institutions responsible for planning at all levels to have general powers relating to the development of both rural and urban areas, in order that the various interests can be dealt with equitably.
Develop economic aspects
4. Starting from the consideration that the rural population should be able to work and to make a living in its own region, the ministers believe that:
– the greatest effort should be made to promote a developed and adapted agriculture;
– insofar as preservation of its primary activities permits, the rural environment should be subject to the establishment of industrial and tertiary activities which can counterbalance the inflationary pressures linked with excessive urban and industrial concentration;
– with this in view, in order to create employment, grants and special assistance should be provided with a view to discovering special types of work such as home industries and the combination of different jobs;
– in addition, industries using advanced technology and recruiting skilled labour can be located in rural areas near to those with a developed urban infrastructure;
– in view of the structural diversity of these areas, it is necessary to promote a wide range of activities insofar as they can be adjusted satisfactorily to local resources;
– a policy to attract executive and skilled staff in centres situated in rural areas must be pursued, making it possible in this way to create new tertiary activities.
5. In rural areas, the increase of agricultural productivity must be combined with the creation of an industrial structure corresponding to the supply of labour force. A preference can be given to the installation of industries with high added value which have no major problems so far as siting is concerned.
6. In case establishment and employment grants made for the purposes of regional development do not cater adequately for the most sparsely populated areas, steps should be taken to rectify this.
7. Disparities in living and employment conditions in town and countryside are due mainly to different developments in tertiary activities in the town and in rural areas, so it is essential to ensure that country people have a maximum amount of services and facilities available at acceptable distances, including adequate socio-cultural facilities.
In order to ensure satisfactory social and commercial services, it is desirable to provide economic help so that existing services can be maintained and urgently needed services created.
8. Rural areas must be adequately linked with major economic and cultural centres. These communications should be supplemented by an improvement in intra-regional relations and communications.
It is also desirable to strengthen the communications infrastructure in order to afford improved access to jobs and services.
9. The establishment of high-speed routes to major growth centres across rural areas frequently undermines their structure. It should be accompanied by an appropriate policy to ensure that they are harmoniously integrated.
Improve the environment, protect ecological balance and preserve cultural life
10. A good rural living environment requires the cultivation of the landscape by agriculture and forestry. Where human settlements are to be sustained, it is therefore essential to enable the agricultural population to make a living and fulfil these socially necessary tasks of cultivation.
11. Rural regions must be regarded as an important element of the European countryside, which is by no means confined to the functional role involved in rural exploitation.
The protection of the specific character of rural areas constitutes a priority objective for any regional planning policy designed to conserve the potential for city dwellers’ recreation and relaxation, to preserve the ecological balance and to protect areas of natural beauty and scientific importance.
12. The conservation and protection of a high-quality living environment in rural areas calls for measures to counteract trends towards the increasing consumption of natural resources.
A strict land-use policy is essential in order to restrain encroaching suburbanisation. Tourist projects and the establishment of second homes in rural areas must in particular be directed so as to ensure their better integration in the environment.
The social right of access to nature must be secured in particular by limiting the private appropriation of land and natural resources.
13. The special character of a country district, as shown particularly in regional architecture, must be respected. In this connection, reference should be made to the conclusions of the Council of Europe Symposium on Rural Architecture in Regional Planning, and the Granada appeal made at the close of that symposium should be supported.
14. Certain aspects of the pattern of rural living need to be safeguarded as an alternative to the urban pattern of living. The main objectives of a rural planning policy must be based not only on economic criteria but on criteria which cannot be assessed in financial terms, based on man’s needs in his traditional cultural context.
The rural world must develop its own dynamism and an active local economy in order to be sure of economic development that is independent of the town.
The unilateral pressure of town-dwellers’ needs must not be an exclusive criterion for rural planning. The planning of rural areas should reflect man’s real needs in his own region.
Organise transfrontier co-operation
15. A number of problems in rural areas concern regions overlapping national frontiers. It is also obvious that the development of certain parts of Europe has considerable effects on that of other parts. European co-operation at national, regional and local level is necessary in order to:
– permit the co-ordination of efforts with a view to solving the problems of rural development in certain regions;
– increase the knowledge and awareness of the reciprocal effects of development in various European regions.
Metropolitan areas and main development axes
16. With a view to defining an adapted policy for rural areas it is necessary to use selectively planning instruments and measures and take into consideration economic, infrastructural and demographic characteristics (increase, stagnant or dwindling population) of European regions and their different levels of development.
17. Regarding metropolitan areas and main development axes in regions characterised by a growth situation, it is desirable to implement:
– measures to check development in the densely populated centre of Europe;
– measures to foster development in the less densely populated regions surrounding the centre of Europe;
– energetic measures to stimulate development in the rural regions of southern Europe.
18. In the regions that fulfil the conditions for development potential, it is desirable to continue territorial organisation by developing existing centres and axes of varying sizes.
In this way development, concentration and guidance will influence the territorial development potential while preserving open spaces to meet the needs of ecological balance, agriculture, recreation and the protection of landscapes. It will be necessary to establish the criteria to be respected for these various areas.
19. In regions showing signs of stagnation or decline it is necessary:
– to develop stimulative measures for stabilising the situation in rural areas;
– to devise policies to prevent increased urban concentration.