Rural urban partnerships for coordinated spatial development


Rural-urban partnerships have been used by the OECD to identify ways in which urban and rural local governments are linked to each other and can develop co‑operation (see Rural Urban Partnerships, 2013). While some of the linkages take place through market exchanges, for example purchases of goods and services, a large share are not market-based relationships and have no price. These include but are not limited to the amenity benefits of rural scenery, congestion on roads caused by commuting, the ability of rural residents to access cultural services funded by urban residents, and scale economies that arise from combing demand from urban and rural customers. These unpriced linkages result in various combinations of externality effects, public goods and free-riding behavior (where people would be willing to pay if they had to but are able to avoid paying). The result is an inefficient production and allocation of the various services subject to these effects. That is, too much congestion, too few natural and cultural amenities or under-provision of goods and services, because demand was wrongly estimated. Importantly, these problems are almost always local in nature so there is little incentive for national or even regional/state governments to engage in their solution.

A recent study of the governance of land use in Prague highlights some of the fundamental challenges in structuring rural-urban partnerships. Prague’s Functional Urban Area spans 435 municipalities. Prague stands as the tenth most fragmented FUA in the OECD, with approximately 23 municipalities per 100 000 inhabitants. The interconnectedness of large and small municipalities across this urban system has obvious implications for spatial planning and land use – it raises the importance of a co-ordinated approach across the functional territory. Prague co-operates with the region of Central Bohemia as well as the municipalities in its FUA on transportation issues and there are a few nascent projects to pursue co-ordinated development in a few other areas as well. Still, there is no metropolitan governance body and there is no legal or regulatory mechanism to co-ordinate on spatial development. The right frameworks simply don’t exist at present to purpose meaningful longer term partnerships in order to tackle some of the most pressing issues—such as growing road congestion.

Incentives need to be in place to encourage ongoing partnership – and the national government has a critical role to play in this regard\. There are a range of options for how this could be structured. Read The Governance of Land Use in the Czech Republic: The Case of Prague to find out more.

For more information on this work please contact Tamara Krawchenko, Policy Analyst, on

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