Role of Small Towns: An Opportunity in Globalised World
In modern town planning, small towns having their own identity are considered as extraordinary places where inhabitants enjoy their social life (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Such towns are in the midst of a peaceful green environment where pedestrians can walk as freely as they can with little traffic on the road and therefore less noise pollution allowing people to breath fresh, clean air (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Also, Municipal councils promote the use of renewable energy, recycling and local arts and crafts. Furthermore, people enjoy traditional local cuisine in restaurants and shops that sell local products. The people in these towns think globally and act locally and make havens in a fast world (Knox, & Mayer 2013).
The article focuses on the challenges faced by small town and urban places in a globalised world (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Further, it highlights movements, programmes and policies that support local culture and promotes sustainability both concerning culture and environment (Knox, & Mayer 2013). These small towns historically were developed as the market town and had a great variety in the history, morphology, and economy in the developed countries of the world (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Their small size is a result of isolation from the transport corridors and industrial economies of that era (Knox, & Mayer 2013). In the European context, these small towns initially grew as manufacturing units of the industrial era, but later did not have sufficient resources to remain competitive in the face of changing technologies (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Therefore, most of these towns experienced decades of economic and demographic stagnation, and as a result, some of these cities were abandoned or dead (Knox, & Mayer 2013).
In the private sector, social sustainability, social actions within society can play an important role in the planning of small towns (Knox, & Mayer 2013). The brightest, most energetic, and best-educated young people leaving ageing populations that tend to become limited in their capacity to think and have a limited and restricted outlook, lacking in vision and leadership (Knox, & Mayer 2013). In such uncertain situations, communities tend to lose the capacity to deal with the many internal and external influences on their well-being (Knox, & Mayer 2013). It becomes challenging to manage declining economies and limited capacity to manage change, problems of environmental degradation and social chaos that becomes chronic (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Adding to this mess, globalisation and economic rationalisation lead to a decline in locally owned businesses, with a consequent loss of local distinctiveness, character, and sense of place particularly in small towns (Knox, & Mayer 2013).
In the public sector, there is a growing trend towards having a neoliberal political economy with heavy taxes levied on citizens to lessen the burden of fiscal deficit on the governments (Knox, & Mayer 2013). However, at the grassroots level, there is a strong resistance to such government systems which have resulted in cutbacks and closures of schools, hospitals, clinics, post offices, and bus services along with the reduction of investments in physical infrastructure and public utilities and cutbacks in welfare programmes (Knox, & Mayer 2013).
However, the scene of small towns is not that gloomy, and they are attracting both population and investment at many places, having sustainability and its longevity as their challenges (Knox, & Mayer 2013). These small towns are the result of urban sprawl, spreading in highly urbanised regions of the world (Knox, & Mayer 2013). These small towns are then supported by improvements in infrastructure, new communication networks, improved water supplies and better television reception making them attractive to both employers and individuals (Knox, & Mayer 2013). The idea of corporate reorganisation and decentralisation works well in small-town settings as there is an abundance of inexpensive land and cheap, non-union labour (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Not only the labour force but the local entrepreneurs engaged in local craftsmanship do help in developing the economy of these small towns and create local jobs (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Adding to this working population which keeps small towns moving, there is another category of people who are in search of an alternative lifestyle away from the main overcrowded, polluted metropolises who contribute to the development of small towns (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Because of the scenic views, fresh air, natural landscape and water bodies in the small towns hospitality industry flourish here with increasing number of floating populations (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Thus, market towns and hill towns which were dull and restrictive in the past have suddenly become live, picturesque, peaceful and affordable by many key professionals who want to be part of this poetry (Knox, & Mayer 2013).
These small towns undergo gentrification process with the help of essential parameters such as house prices, the pace of life, and physical attractiveness which makes retired households, teleworkers, long-distance commuters, and second-home owners, to have upgraded residences, stores, cafés, and restaurants contributing to the overall prosperity of towns (Knox, & Mayer 2013). However, after a certain point, it brings problems of social inequality and environmental sustainability in these towns (Knox, & Mayer 2013). The solution to this downfall lies in thinking like a genius who knows when to stop. In planning terms, this means enforcing long-term planning policies concerning physical planning, social planning, economic planning, environmental planning, an architectural and cultural heritage which will keep the development and sprawl under control. Planning policies can further help in improving the quality and competitiveness of existing places which aim to improve the uniformity of appearance and experience of these small towns.
The planning of small tows at present is however neglected in national policy, where the priority is given to either the advanced urban centres or backward rural regions (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Within academic discussions, there has been considerable research done on effects of globalisation and technological change on large cities and city-regions however small towns are not part of these discussions for almost for last two decades or even more (Knox, & Mayer 2013). Nevertheless, due to current trends getting built over the years, some grassroots movements have emerged to address the needs, challenges and opportunities of small-town communities (Knox, & Mayer 2013). They involve partnerships among local community groups, local businesses, and local governments (Knox, & Mayer 2013). The major agenda of these partnerships is encouraging sustainable communities their liveability and quality of life (Knox, & Mayer 2013). A dynamic professional leadership will make small towns sail through.
Knox, P., & Mayer, H. (2013). Small town sustainability: economic, social, and environmental innovation. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.library.britishcouncil.org.in:4443