4 The Sustainability Concept of Rural Urban Partnerships
Under spatial concerns sustainable rural urban partnerships should be embedded in a poly- centric network of settlements of different size (see Figure 5) which are oriented along axes of development being the basis for high-capacity public transport. It seems that this concept can be integrated into the already existing Chinese small town strategy (ACCA 21 2005).
Besides the spatial aspect this poly-centric network contributes to the valorisation of rural areas which is characterised by higher and wider spread investments into the rural infrastructure and economy and by improving access in rural areas to public services as e.g. education, health care and public transport. The villages could stay the places of residence (which is not yet considered in the Chinese small town strategy) with a high quality of life (clean air, calmness, less traffic,...) whereas small towns in the near region could offer new employment, shopping possibilities, schools, social services etc. The regional cooperation of villages, small and medium towns would lead to a strengthened regional economy based on the exchange of rural and urban goods and services. On the one hand fresh regional farmers` products for the near urban markets and a recreation potential for the urban population in the villages and in a well maintained environment, on the other hand different kinds of urban offers to fulfil the daily, weekly and monthly needs of the rural population would reverse migration into cities in the long run.
Villages in a poly-centric network of settlements will be structurally organised according to the logistic needs of farming activities.
Internal logistic needs: farms and their appending fields are located in a way that internal distances from the farm to the fields are as short as possible. This also contributes to the sustainment of arable land resources as cart-tracks in their dimensions can be minimized. Land consolidation measures should focus on these needs.
External logistic needs: short distances and supply chains in a poly-centric network of settlements with its different markets and consumers facilitate direct marketing for farmers and therefore allow higher profits without intermediaries leading to sustainable rural urban partnerships
Sustainable urban development is not realisable without sustainable rural involvement. To curb further massive urban sprawl and loss of arable land in China many different measures have to be taken. Two approaches should be combined in land use to achieve sustainable solutions:
The efficiency approach: land sparing types of settlements with high densification and a balanced functional mixture of city life are important strategies. Thus, cities of short distances need less space and lead to sustainable mobility. Further urbanisation of the country should take place along axes so that natural landscape is not too strongly dissected. Besides, these inter-urban connections can be well managed by public transport.
The systems approach: concerns the economic dimension of rural-urban links with its spatial reference. Investments in appropriate rural industries and the development of the rural service sector e.g. tourism should be a prior aim to unburden agriculture micro-economically, to create new jobs and to set up rural-urban networks of production and consumption. In this network agriculture gains higher regional importance as bigger farm sizes can guarantee higher supply security for the food processing industry established in the region but also for urban partners and markets. This kind of rural economy aims firstly to fulfil the needs of the regional population and secondly to set up sustainable rural urban partnerships.
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