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Economic Resilience in Small and Medium Towns

17 July 2014 Author:

Working alongside partner organisations from Luxembourg, Belgium and Ireland, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is delivering a briefing paper and seminar to identify the factors which have led to different European regions suffering different economic consequences during the global downturn.


Research delivered by ESPON (the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion), shows how regional economic resilience has been widely inconsistent during the crisis in geographical terms.

The diagram to the right, analysed at NUTS 3 level (upper tier and unitary authorities and districts in the United Kingdom), shows the 2014 economic position of European Union regions. Measured in terms of employment rate; red regions are those that suffered declining employment rates during the crisis and have yet to recover; yellow regions suffered a decline in employment rate, have started to recover, but have not yet returned to pre-crisis levels; green areas suffered a decline but have since returned to pre-crisis levels or better; whilst blue areas were successfully resilient to any drops in the employment rate at all.

In conjunction with a secondary paper from ESPON, the RTPI will be analysing the unique factors of small and medium sized towns in the UK, and how these factors have contributed to economic resilience, or lack of resilience, in UK regions.

Small and medium sized towns contain on average around half the population of UK regions but receive disproportionately little mainstream and academic focus in comparison to cities. When considered at an aggregate level they provide a significant supply of the nation’s jobs and housing provision, but also face persistent and growing challenges which require effective planning responses – including talent-drain to cities, cuts to essential public services, out of town shopping and leisure developments, and rapidly changing demographics.

The RTPI is interested to understand whether or not ( in an ever increasingly globalised world, with international, powerful fluctuations in business cycles,) well planned, efficiently run small and medium sized communities can actually provide a significant positive contribution to regional economic resilience.