The diversity of rural areas as background for place-based policy and planning

Last week June 22 Dr. Sylvia Herrmann gave a presentation titled ‘The diversity of rural areas as background for place-based policy and planning’ (see the Presentation WASS-seminar by Dr Sylvia Herrmann).

Dr Sylvia Hermann is affiliated at the Institute for Environmental Planning, Leibniz Universität Hannover and was coordinator of the EU-funded FP7 research project RUFUS ( Based on the findings of RUFUS dr Hermann pleads for place-based policy and planning to cope with rural diversity in the EU.

In her lecture she presented findings of the RUFUS project and argued that the specific characteristics of places have to be included in planning and policy to reach a more successful implementation of sustainable and site related policy measures. Ergo: policies and planning need to be more place-based.

In the discussion about future rural development, the diversity of rural areas in Europe increasingly raises the interest of policy makers and stakeholders. The strategic paper Europe2020 states that the common EU targets for future development ‘must be … capable of reflecting the diversity of Member States situations and based on sufficiently reliable data for purposes of comparison’. Rural areas have to be recognised as places with diverse combinations of historical, social, cultural and environmental features and the installation of relations among local actors (Cisilino et al., 2010). This shows that the diversity of rural European areas is more and more recognized as a key potential for intelligent growth. Thus, society seeks for development approaches based on regional diversity to better understand the development opportunities and challenges of diverse types of rural areas in Europe. Consequently, research has to combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to deal with the diversity. It also has to support the improvement of endogenous potential and governance approaches reflecting the diversity of the specific regions.

The EU FP 7 project ‘RUFUS’ (Rural Future Networks) tried to meet these challenges with a research approach supporting politicians with knowledge about the diversity of rural regions. RUFUS combined a set of methods to provide a’ mosaic’ of answers to policy makers and stakeholders. It has created a new classification system to map the diverse combinations of economic, social, and ecological conditions of European rural regions in nine EU countries (the UK, Germany, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary). This could help target rural development policy and provide insight into the need for CAP’s interaction with other policy areas. Maps showing the diverse development potentials of rural areas have been created. By the help of case studies the linkage between the top-down approaches of mapping with the reality in the regions has been established. The findings have been translated to policy relevant recommendations.