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Effective Management of Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl can be defined as low-density, scattered, urban development without systematic large-scale or regional public land-use planning (Bruegmann, 2005). In its broadest sense, urban sprawl is way of polycentric development away from the main city centre commonly known as suburban development (Wassmer, 2000). Effective management of urban sprawl has become an important concern in a contemporary urban planning. The causes, consequences and control over land use has become relevant in expressing desire for a smart growth (Bergstrom, Goetz, and Shortle, 2004). Although, the problems associated with urban sprawl are quite visible in nature, there is a need for a deep scientific investigation using critical spatial theory framework which is understood in three stages i.e. cause, communication and action. This study is relevant and important because it adversely affect our natural environment and personal as well as social life in an urban setting. These issues of urban sprawl are associated with loss of open space, urban decay, unsightly strip mall developments, urban air and water pollution, traffic congestion, low-density housing developments, the loss of a sense of community, encroachment on green belt, land use proximity and reliance on automobiles (Nechyba and Walsh, 2004).

Due to increase in urban population and higher rate of migration from rural areas to urban areas, central cities are finding it difficult to hold onto its households and jobs. Also, there is pressure on existing urban infrastructure which local authorities are finding difficult to manage (Nechyba and Walsh, 2004). Therefore, there is a growing trend towards suburbanisation which acts as a counter magnet to the central city (Nechyba and Walsh, 2004). The understanding of these rural-urban migration patterns is observed in economic literature, which focuses on mixed use development, helping decline in transportation costs and rise in income levels suited to government’s tax structure, expenditure and zoning policies. Local public finance literature is based on local taxes, amenities and other external forces (Nechyba and Walsh, 2004). Both these literatures together, inform the discussion on phenomenon of an ‘edge cities’ (clusters of population and economic activity at the urban fringe) which are very different from sprawl in the United States and Europe (Nechyba and Walsh, 2004). Many developing countries which became independent after world war II, followed modernisation as their development model, predominantly with industrial society. They also adopted zoning laws which segregate homes from jobs, shops and other activities ignoring public health and safety (Peiser, 2001). Considering the magnitude of the problem and the global nature, this study focuses on day to day functioning of both built and natural urban environment with problems such as congestion, blight, monotony, endless development and ecological destruction (Peiser, 2001). Furthermore, urban sprawl are areas which are poorly planned where large areas are zoned for similar use in compact city centre. There spaces are without parks, apartments and other such spaces which would break the monotony (Peiser, 2001). Thus, as many planners believe, undesirable of urban sprawl outweighs desirable then it is appropriate to adopt planning policies which counter such development (Wassmer, 2008). It is a complex, multi-faceted problem requiring multi-faceted solutions (Peiser, 2001).

Urban sprawl is widely debated topic among academics, urban planners, and the public in general (Wassmer, 2008). There is a growing awareness about consequences of urban sprawl both in Europe and the United States (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). ‘New Urbanism’ or ‘Smart Growth’ are the proponents of the movements in United States, promoting regulations of urban growth (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). These movements are into action in some states and counties, well-known examples are state of Oregon and Maryland and Montgomery county in Virginia (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). Recently, in the state of Michigan, with Detroit as one of the largest metropolitan areas, in the United States, there is a widespread opposition to regional land use planning, and an advisory body for land use planning has been formed by the new governor (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). Europe has a longer tradition of metropolitan urban planning at regional scale than in United States (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). Such attempts to regulate the urban form is termed as compact city planning policy and promotion of mixed-use development (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004). National government in the Netherlands have been regulating urban expansion for decades in their series of national spatial plans, focused on compact urban growth, where one of the aims is to reduce the use of private car (Dieleman and Wegener, 2004).


Dieleman, F., and Wegener, M. (2004). Compact City and Urban Sprawl. Built Environment (1978-), 30(4), 308-323. Retrieved from

Nechyba, T., & Walsh, R. (2004). Urban Sprawl. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(4), 177-200. Retrieved from

Nechyba, T., & Walsh, R. (2004). Urban Sprawl. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(4), 177-200. Retrieved from

Peiser, R. (2001). Decomposing Urban Sprawl. The Town Planning Review, 72(3), 275-298. Retrieved from

Tsai, Y. (2015). Housing demand forces and land use towards urban compactness: A push-accessibility-pull analysis framework. Urban Studies, 52(13), 2441-2457. Retrieved from

Wassmer, R. (2000). Urban Sprawl in a U.S. Metropolitan Area: Ways to Measure and a Comparison of the Sacramento Area to Similar Metropolitan Areas in California and the U.S. (pp. 2-6, Rep.). Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Retrieved from

Wassmer, R. (2008). Causes of Urban Sprawl in the United States: Auto Reliance as Compared to Natural Evolution, Flight from Blight and Local Revenue Reliance. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(3), 536-555. Retrieved from

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