Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Resisting against Speculative Urban Regeneration in the Shrinking City of Ferrol

Academic journal article Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management

Resisting against Speculative Urban Regeneration in the Shrinking City of Ferrol

Article excerpt


Urban shrinkage is inherent to contemporary globalisation processes, determining the future evolution of territories, societies and the activities therein (Baron et al. 2010). Shrinking cities refer to those "urban areas that have experienced population loss, economic downturn, employment decline and social problems as symptoms of a structural crisis" (Martinez-Fernandez et al. 2012: 214). Shrinking cities reveal deteriorating socio-economic conditions, rising social distress and inequalities, languishing public resources, and a dissatisfactory city image prompting disinvestments (Fol 2012). Hence, they usually manifest a stereotyped image of economic and sociocultural wasteland (Oswalt 2005), displaying a sharply fading attractiveness in contrast with growing metropolitan spaces (Cauchi-Duval et al. 2016).

After nearly two centuries of undisturbed population growth concentrated in cities, the world is now meeting a deceleration in the speed that growth happens (Lima & Eischeid 2017). The 2017 UN world population prospects review contends that population growth is meeting an uneven spatial evolution, reflecting a future demographic stagnation and even shrinkage in many western countries. Anyway, rather than a prospect scenario, urban shrinkage is already a common trend across Europe (Haase et al. 2013), showing strong signs of further reinforcement in the near future (Rieniets 2009). The global changes that supervene the definitive collapse of the fordist socioeconomic model have progressively increased the scientific, social and political attention devoted to urban shrinkage (Haase et al. 2016).

Small and medium-sized cities are particularly prone to undergo processes of urban shrinkage (Martinez-Fernandez et al. 2016). Shrinkage is thus compromising the central role of equilibrium played by these cities as regards territorial structuring and socio-spatial development, undermining essential public service provision (Pirisi & Trocsanyi 2014). Yet, these spaces have hitherto drawn very scarce scientific and socio-political attention exposing signs of marginalisation from the globalised policy programs, public debate and sociocultural imaginaries (Lang 2012; Wolff at al. 2013). Bringing together economic recession, population loss and political dependency in a context dependent relational way (Lang et al. 2015), some authors start to point out shrinking cities as subject to peripheralisation processes (Weck & Beipwenger 2013), contrary to central metropolitan spaces that concentrate, public and private discourses, resources, wealth and capital (Di Meo 2010; Lamenie 2016).

In addition to the socio-spatial unevenness engendered by the ongoing neoliberal globalisation (Smith 2002), that defines the peripheralisation of shrinking cities, traditional studies have rather related their emergence and reproduction to relevant internal factors including deindustrialisation, suburbanisation and socio-political transformations amongst others (Stryjakiewicz 2013). The phenomenon of urban shrinkage responds thus to multidimensional processes and effects with demographic, social, economic and physical implications, which depend on both exogenous and endogenous elements that interplay differently in spatial terms (Prada-Trigo 2014). In the light of the foregoing, shrinking cities have to deal with raising challenges such as for instance outmigration, aging population and brain-drain, oversupply of urban amenities and infrastructures, retail and housing vacancy and depreciation, social distress and impoverishment, diminution of public budgets and financial resources etc. (Hollander et al. 2009). The effects of urban shrinkage are therefore especially remarkable at the local scale where the regular city functioning is put in jeopardy, pushing authorities to take varied action (Olsen 2013).

Taking advantage of the opportunities granted by an extreme case (Flyvbjerg 2006) such as the shrinking city of Ferrol, the first purpose hereof, is to analyse the urban strategies adopted in the city to cope with the effects of urban shrinkage. …

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