Urbanisation in MEDCs
Urbanisation can cause problems such as transport congestion, lack of sufficient housing, over-rapid growth and environmental degradation. Many cities display particularly sharp inequalities in housing provision, health and employment.
Some people try to escape these problems by moving away from the city - a process called counter-urbanisation. Long term, however, the solution must be to make cities more sustainable [sustainable: Doing something in a way that minimises damage to the environment and avoids using up natural resources, eg by using renewable resources. ].
Urbanisation means an increase in the proportion of people living in urban areas compared to rural areas. An urban area is a built-up area such as a town or city. A rural area is an area of countryside.
As a country industrialises, the number of people living in urban areas tends to increase. The UK and many other MEDCs [MEDC: A More Economically Developed Country (MEDC) has high levels of development based on economic indicators such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ] urbanised during the 18th and 19th centuries. People migrated from rural areas (due to the mechanisation in farming) to urban areas where there was employment in the new factories. The area of cities known as the inner city developed during this time as rows of terraced housing were built for workers.
Today the UK is a mostly urban society, with 90 per cent of the population living in towns or cities.
On a global scale, urbanisation is taking place rapidly, particularly in LEDCs [LEDC: A Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC) has low levels of development, based on economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (the country's income). ].
Although the UK is an urban society, more and more people are choosing to live on the edge of urban areas - with many relocating to the countryside. This is called counter-urbanisation.
As more people move to the edge of towns and cities, traffic congestion [traffic congestion: When a road is overused and vehicles using it are unable to move freely. ] may get worse. Many people will drive their cars into the city centre to get to work.
It is compounded by people being brought into city on large roads or motorways. These roads then link up with smaller, older, narrower roads in the city centre. This causes a bottleneck and congestion.
Some cities have tried to manage this problem by introducing traffic management schemes. These schemes may include:
Local councils have also tried to make the roads in urban areas safer by introducing traffic calming [traffic calming: Schemes that aim to reduce the speed of road traffic. For example, constructing speed bumps and narrowing the road. ], pedestrian zones, vehicle-exclusion zones and permit-only parking schemes.
|The introduction of Park and Ride schemes. People park in car parks on the edge of a settlement and catch regular buses into the centre.|
|Pedestrianised areas are designated as 'pedestrian only' zones.|
|Permit holder parking - certain parts of the city, particularly near the centre, are designated as permit parking only. This means that people must have a permit to park in that area. This reduces the number of people driving in to towns and cities as parking opportunities are restricted.|
|Vehicle exclusion zones - certain types of vehicles are excluded from certain parts of a city, eg large vehicles may not be allowed to enter narrow roads or residential areas.|
|Car pooling - people are encouraged to share cars. This has been used in a lot in the USA.|
|Traffic calming - roads narrowing and speed bumps make traffic move slower around narrower streets. Narrow roads may restrict the type of vehicle that can enter certain parts of the city.|
Inequalities exist in all urban areas. Inequality means extreme differences between poverty and wealth, as well as in peoples' wellbeing and access to things like jobs, housing and education. Inequalities may occur in:
Often people who live in inner-city areas experience a poor quality of life. This is because the inner-city is typically a zone with older housing and declining industry. The diagram below compares the quality of life for someone living in an outer London borough with that of someone who lives in an inner London borough.
Unemployment and incidents of long-term illness are higher in the inner-city boroughs, while households are more likely to have central heating and multiple cars in the outer-city boroughs.
Governments and planners [planners: Officially appointed people responsible for making decisions about development and reconstruction. ] often step in to help redevelop [redevelop: To restore or develop an area again. ] run-down inner-city areas. Inner-city redevelopments, such as those in London's Docklands or Manchester's Salford Quays, may improve the physical environment of the area and improve the quality of housing. But it can also create even greater inequalities because the local residents may not be able to afford to live there anymore. Often the old industrial jobs are replaced by skilled jobs and new people move to the area.
Social and demographic [demographics: The study of population statistics. It measures trends and tracks changes in births, deaths and migration. ] changes are leading to a greater demand for housing. People are living longer, and choosing to marry later, and in recent years there has been a rise in the number of single-parent families. Added to this, the UK is experiencing immigration from other countries, for example from Eastern Europe, as countries like Poland are now members of the EU. The result is an ever-larger number of smaller households, all requiring accommodation.
However, building new, affordable homes in urban areas is difficult. Land values are very high and land is in short supply.
Regional shopping centres, such as Cribbs Causeway near Bristol, are often built on land in the urban rural fringe. Their location allows easy access to transport routes. There is also room for car parking. The land is cheaper here than in the city centre.
Modern technology gives firms a freer choice of location. Hi-tech industries [hi-tech industry: An industry which is on the cutting edge, for example Pharmaceuticals or electrical goods. ], located in science parks, are attracted by good transport links. The areas can offer pleasant landscaped environments, with less traffic problems and pollution.
Urban centres cannot dispose or treat their own waste as the land is limited. Therefore space is used outside of urban area.
The UK is short of suitable housing. Approximately 3 million new homes are needed by 2030. They need to be built somewhere. The options are using Brownfield sites or Greenfield sites.
Many people are working towards trying to make cities more sustainable [sustainable: Doing something in a way that minimises damage to the environment and avoids using up natural resources, eg by using renewable resources. ]. A sustainable city offers a good quality of life to current residents but doesn't reduce the opportunities for future residents to enjoy.
A sustainable city will grow at a sustainable rate and use resources in a sustainable way.
Masdar City aims to be one of the world's most sustainable [sustainable: Doing something in a way that minimises damage to the environment and avoids using up natural resources, eg by using renewable resources. ] urban developments powered by renewable [renewable: A resource which is generated from sources which are not finite or exhaustible. For example, wave power, wind power, solar power or geothermal energy are renewable energy sources. ] energy. It aims to do this by:
In 2009 the UK Government named four towns as
"eco-towns". The towns receive some government funding and are granted eco-town status on the basis of the potential for achieving a high level of sustainability. The funding aims to provide:
Whitehill Bordon is one example. It was given eco-town status in 2009.