Are Land Use Policies Preserving Farmland from Urban Sprawl?

Article excerpt


The principal objective of this paper is to analyse if land use policies are preserving farmland from urban sprawl. Furthermore, it is analysed if a protected area, with more restricted land use legislation, is more protected from urban sprawl that an area with more flexible legislation. Using an Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis, it is showed that urban sprawl is causing distortions in the desirable uses of both areas and that land use policies are not preserving them from residential uses. A revision of the land use control policies is needed to avoid the loss of their exceptional values.

Keywords: urban sprawl, farmland price, land use policy, protected natural area

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1. Introduction

The high price of urban land represents an important problem in the current land market as it is the main factor responsible for elevated housing prices in cities. These high housing prices, together with the high desirability of the countryside as a place of residence, are leading towards an important demand of periurban land. This phenomenon is called "urban sprawl" and it is becoming usual in areas near cities. From the other side of the market, farmland supply in rural municipalities is controlled by policies because the governments, in general, try to protect the values of our environment. Many authors have studied the phenomenon of "urban sprawl". It is seen as the inefficient land use patterns associated with urban growth and development in rural areas (Olson and Lyson, 1999). These no efficient land uses, which bring the increase in population, are causing an important decrease or farmland in many areas (Nelson, 1999). In the other hand, land use legislation tries to preserve farmland from urban sprawl, due to the fact that it is accepted that urban sprawl has important negative consequences as the damages made in the environment, the rural community and the agrarian activities (Furuseth, 1987; Daniels & Bowers, 1997; Mariola, 2005).

This paper have two hypothesis: 1) Land use policies are not preserving from urban sprawl land qualified as 'rustic', which is not able to be developed. 2) A protected area, with more restricted land use legislation, is more preserved from urban sprawl that an area with more flexible legislation. The analysis of the legislation and the transactions of plots of rustic land both inside the Urdaibai Reserve (RBU) and round some of its various bordering municipalities in Bizkaia, but under less strict legislation, tries to achieve the objective of contrasting those hypothesis.

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve has unique features such as its exceptional natural characteristics and its location only 30 minutes away by car from Bilbao area (Biscay province). Besides, the declaration of Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO (1984) meant the legislation tried to zealously protect the activities carried out on this rustic land. A bordering area of the reserve, five municipalities which are closer to Bilbao, has been taken as a reference from the non protected area. This area has a strong rural character and high environmental and landscape quality and it is well linked with the city.

The legislation of Urdabai provides a special legal regime to protect the ecosystem. This protection is linked to maintaining existing farming activities.With the aim of regulating land use and authorized construction acts, the law subdivides the rural land in different categories according to their physical and ecological characteristics (Note 1). In two of them, Area of Agricultural Interest and Common Rustic Land Area, isolated residential buildings are allowed for farmers subject to a series of features of the minimum farming unit (Note 2). In the area outside the reserve, the requirements asked by the minimum farming unit are less demanding (Note 3). The Area of Rural Neighbourhood Centres (RNC) is the only farmland area to support new construction of dwellings unrelated with farming both inside and outside the protected area (Note 4). …


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