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Impoverished facilities in shrinking cities have implications for social cohesion

Residents in a shrinking region often attach more importance to the function of facilities, rather than its quality. This is one of the conclusions in the case study titled “Shrinkage in the picture - The social consequences of demographic change” by MOVISIE within the shrinking region of Borger-Odoorn in the Netherlands. Research about shrinking cities often focuses on a reducing population and increasing home vacancies. This publication describes the social consequences of shrinkage.

Shrinking cities do not only ascend by natural demographic processes

The report concludes that the population composition in a shrinking region is not only dependent on natural demographic processes, but also because of push and pull factors such as the environment, facilities and socio-economic developments. As a result, there are large differences between shrinking regions. In sensitive areas demographic trends and push and pull factors influence each other, leading to a lack of social cohesion and increasing impoverishment. It is therefore important that these push and pull factors within each shrinking city and the perception of residents is clearly shown.

Meeting places in shrinking city Borger-Odoorn crucial for social cohesion

In the municipality of Borger-Odoorn there is a large difference between the so-called sand and peat area. The sand area has a declining- and aging population and there is very little green in the city, while in the peat area relatively many young families live. This is explained by the housing and the physical environment of the sand area. Residents in both shrinking regions are particularly concerned about the closing of schools and other facilities, which is to the detriment of the liveability. Residents place great value on social and emotional facilities such as meeting places. Meeting places seem crucial for social cohesion.

Shrinking cities should involve residents in shrinkage policy

The case study of the shrinking region Borger-Odoorn shows that it is important for residents to be involved in creating or thinking about policy in and for shrinking cities. The municipality of Borger-Odoorn seems mainly to be guiding the shrinking region rather than fighting it. Residents want the city to do more to improve, maintain or increase liveability. According to residents, a shrinking area could retain residents or even see its population grow by stimulating activity for example.

Liveability under pressure in shrinking regions

Many municipalities are facing a population decline. For example, Northeast Groningen, Parkstad Limburg and Zeeland are already known as shrinkage region. The aging population and the emigration of young and affluent families create a slowdown on the housing market and the loss of facilities. For municipalities a major challenge lies in maintaining a good quality of life.