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rural planning

  The attempt to identify problems, organize resources and generate action in rural areas, often with the stated aims of diversifying the economic base, seeking a pluralistic social order and maintaining a healthy (and where necessary, conserved) environment. Policy-making and implementation occur at different scales of government and are often functionally discrete, such that it is possible for one arm of planning (e.g. agricultural improvement) to conflict with another (e.g. landscape; conservation). Rural planning is usually studied in the developed world, although rural development strategies are also relevant in a Third World context. Planning covers a wide diversity of land uses and socio-economic processes, including: agriculture and forestry, conservation, employment and training, energy, housing, recreation (e.g. health and education; tourism; transport).

The geography of rural planning has focused particularly on attempts to bring a number of these planning functions together. This may reflect particular rural locales, where the need is either to generate economic development to provide jobs, services and homes, or to control development or resource use so as to protect the area\'s character. For example, key settlement policies (Cloke, 1979) have been used to concentrate resources into planned service centres, which can then serve the settlements in their rural hinterlands. Planning has also been integrated in particular rural areas (e.g. rural Wales and rural Scotland in the UK and Appalachia in the USA) where specific regional planning agencies have been established to deal with areas with special needs. More rarely, socio-economic land-use and landscape planning are all involved in specially designated zones such as national parks.

There has been a widespread acceptance of rational concepts in planning in rural areas, such that until recently the place of planning in wider social and political relations has been little questioned. However, interest in the relative inability to implement policies with which to secure many planning aims in rural areas has led some researchers to view planning as an activity in the wider context of the state (see Cloke, 1987). If planning is part of the state apparatus then it will also be subject to the constraints imposed by the form and function of the state. It may, for example, be better suited to aiding elements of production rather than consumption, and it may generate consistent biases in favour of dominant fractions of capital and class (Cloke and Little, 1990). Moreover, as the relationship between state, society and government changes, so too do the politics, decision-making mechanisms, aims and resources associated with rural planning. For example, many aspects of rural planning in the UK have been Europeanized, particularly in terms of fitting development schemes to the requirements of bids for competitive EU funding. More generally, geographers have turned to concepts of governance (Marsden and Murdoch, 1998) in their understanding of new partnerships between public-sector agencies, voluntary organizations, and private-sector concerns in the pursuit of development or planning objectives. (PJC)

References Cloke, P. 1979: Key settlements in rural areas. London: Methuen. Cloke, P., ed., 1987: Rural planning: policy into action? London: Harper & Row. Cloke, P. and Little, J. 1990: The rural state? Limits to planning in rural society. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Marsden, T. and Murdoch, J., eds, 1998: Rural governance and community participation — Special issue. Journal of Rural Studies 14: 1-118.

Suggested Reading Buller, H. and Wright, S., eds, 1990: Rural development: problems and practices. Aldershot: Avebury. Flora, C.B. and Christenson, J.A., eds, 1991: Rural policies for the 1990s. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Lapping, M.B., Daniels, T.L. and Keller, J.W. 1989: Rural planning and development in the United States. New York: Guilford. Murdoch, J. and Marsden, T. 1994: Reconstructing rurality: class, community and power in the development process. London: UCL Press. Winter, M. 1996: Rural politics. Policies for agriculture, forestry and the environment. London: Routledge.



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