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A City Region without a City? Negotiating Development, Marginality and Relational Space in Rural Wales.

Authors: Michael Woods*, Aberystwyth University, Jesse Heley, Aberystwyth University, Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, Aberystwyth University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Rural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Economic Development, City-region, Rural, Wales
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The city-region model of economic development is enjoying a revival of popularity in Europe. This is in spite of now well-documented critiques of the marginalization of rural interests and assumptions that urban-centred investment will filter out and stimulate rural development. The promotion of city-region development models creates a challenge for governance actors in rural areas who are required to negotiate competing economic and political pressures and contrasting geographical imaginaries in positioning themselves in relation to city-regions. This paper focuses in particular on the development of city-region-based ‘growth deals’ in Wales, UK, where ‘city deals’ for the major cities of Cardiff and Swansea have raised questions around the incorporation of adjacent rural districts into their respective city-regions. This has considerable implications for excluded areas of rural Wales, notably the region of Mid Wales. A Mid Wales ‘growth deal’ – with substantially lower funding - has therefore been proposed as a response which adapts the model to a region with no town with a population over 20,000 people. A counter-argument has also been made for a ‘rural deal’ with an alternative spatial configuration. The paper draws on interviews with elected local politicians and local government officers in rural Wales, conducted as part of the ROBUST project on rural-urban synergies, and reveals that - whilst there is widespread suspicious and criticism of city-regions - attempts to mobilise a rural alternative are hindered by fragmented spatial imaginaries and priorities and issues of capacity and leadership.

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