Last edited 30 Aug 2019

Urban sprawl



[edit] Introduction

The term 'urban sprawl' refers to the spreading of a town or city and its suburbs over previously undeveloped land. It is sometimes used interchangeably with the word 'urbanisation', but urban sprawl more precisely implies an uncontrolled, unplanned or unrestricted spreading, typically driven by migration from high-density urban areas to low-density suburban areas.

In general terms, the pattern of urban sprawl tends to be:

  • During urbanisation, city centres experience higher density, with a rapid decline in periphery settlement.
  • As economic growth continues, people with some wealth (typically the middle classes) begin to migrate towards the suburbs.

The phenomena is associated with a number of social and environmental consequences, and so it is often a highly-politicised, resulting in a number of competing theories as to what constitutes sprawl. While some urbanists measure the quantity of sprawl by the average number of residential units per acre, others focus on decentralisation, segregation of uses, and so on.

Generally, urban sprawl is viewed negatively, with frequent calls for it to be managed more effectively.

[edit] Characteristics of urban sprawl

The following characteristics are often associated with urban sprawl:

[edit] Causes of urban sprawl

Urban sprawl can be caused by a number of factors, often differing according to the country or region that is affected. However, some general causes can include:

[edit] Consequences of urban sprawl

Urban sprawl tends to attract criticism and opposition, particularly from environmental groups who see it in terms of land and habitat loss, and a reduction in biodiversity.

The Garden city movement of the early-20th century provided some opposition to the trend, and new provisions were introduced in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, such as the incorporation of green belts around urban centres.

Some of the typical consequences that give rise to urban sprawl opposition include:

See also: The compact sustainable city.

NB The term ‘conurbation’ refers to a region comprising a number of cities, large towns and other urban areas that have merged together to form one continuous urban, industrially-developed area.

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