Rural–urban fringe

The rural-urban fringe of Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia

The rural–urban fringe, also known as the outskirts or the urban hinterland, can be described as the "landscape interface between town and country",[1] or also as the transition zone where urban and rural uses mix and often clash.[2] Alternatively, it can be viewed as a landscape type in its own right, one forged from an interaction of urban and rural land uses.


Its definition shifts depending on the global location, but typically in Europe, where urban areas are intensively managed to prevent urban sprawl and protect agricultural land the urban fringe will be characterised by certain land uses which have either purposely moved away from the urban area, or require much larger tracts of land. As examples:

Despite these 'urban' uses, the fringe remains largely open with the majority of the land agricultural, woodland or other rural use. However the quality of the countryside around urban areas tends to be low with severance between area of open land and bad maintained woodlands and hedgerows.

In recent years there has been a growing interest in how the full environmental and social potential of the urban fringe can be unlocked. In England in 2005, the Countryside Agency (now part of Natural England) together with Groundwork, a community and environmental regeneration body, produced a vision for the 'countryside in and around towns' that sets out ten 'functions' for a multi-functional urban fringe.[3] The realisation of this vision would provide a high quality environment right on the urban doorstep and provide the adjacent town or city with a host of 'ecosystem services'. It is estimated that within England the urban fringe covers as much as 20% of the land area. Such an extensive resource must be managed and used more intelligently and sustainably if the country as a whole is to develop and function sustainably.

In the United States the urban fringe generally consists of contiguous territory having a density of at least 1,000 persons per square mile. The urban fringe also includes outlying territory of such density if it was connected to the core of the contiguous area by road and is within 1 1/2 road miles of that core, or within 5 road miles of the core but separated by water or other undevelopable territory. Other territory with a population density of fewer than 1,000 people per square mile is included in the urban fringe if it eliminates an enclave or closes an indentation in the boundary of the urbanized area.[4]

See also


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