Determining the vitality of urban centres
Van Aswegen, Mariske
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This study was initiated to potentially provide an encompassing Index of Vitality for urban centres. The Vitality Index’s goal is to evaluate and measure urban centres in terms of growth and general performance on various levels. This will enable measurement of the general economic, social, physical, environmental, institutional and spatial performance of towns within a region, ultimately reflecting the spatial importance of the urban centre in the region. The main problem statement reveals a lack of integrated and encompassing indicators that reflect on the urban structure as an organic entity. This demands for the inclusion of a number of existing indicators into an encompassing index. Towns have been measured in terms of numerous indicators, mostly in connection with social and economic conditions, over an extended period of time. The lack of typical spatial indicators is identified as a shortcoming in the measurement of urban centres. Urban centres exist and function within a larger region, consequently all urban centres are interrelated. This study proposes the utilisation of a comprehensive index to measure the importance of an urban centre within a specific region. The proposed Vitality Index reflects on a city’s vitality. .vitality describes the ability of an organism to stay alive or work effectively. The proposed Vitality Index was developed on the basis of which an urban centre is measured by means of a number of indicators, indicating the ability of that urban centre to continue to exist, be viable, and function satisfactorily in order to provide for the basic needs of the community and to improve the lives of all residents in the long run. This Vitality Index includes social, economic, satisfaction and spatial indicators. The Vitality Index is consequently tested in the proposed study area situated in the Northern Cape Province. The Northern Cape Province is sparsely populated and has very few large urban centres. The urban centres also occur at irregular intervals and the geography of the area is fairly homogeneous. The area is, therefore, ideal for a study project such as this one since the geography will have less influence on the settlement of people. The specific study area is represented in each of the levels of the urban system, and thus includes urban centres in the natiunal regional, and daily urban systems. This contributes greatly to the study, due to the inclusion of Spatial Indicators in the Vitality Index. The study area furthermore fits into the core-periphery model (which is central to this study), with certain centres forming part of the core, while other centres and development corridors are included in the transition zone, and the periphery. A main town is identified within each Local Municipality by means of the central place index and the functional classification of towns with regard to population size. The results obtained for each municipality is consequently related to the main town within the specific urban centre. The results allowed for interurban comparison and measurement as identified within the aims of the study. From the empirical study it is disclosed that Kimberley acquires prominence as the urban centre of greatest spatial importance within the study area, followed by Kathu, Kuruman, Barkley West, Jan Kempdorp, Bothithong and Warrenton. This study contributes in a number of ways to the measurement of urban centres, including the classification of urban indicators into four broad categories, i.e. normative welfare, satisfaction, descriptive social and spatial indicators. This study also proposes the sifting of possible indicators by measuring them against certain prerequisites. Methods are proposed for calculating the Vitality Index, including the ranking and scoring of urban centres. It is proposed that shortcomings that are identified for the urban centres be addressed by policy initiatives, comprising a set of objectives and strategies to correct imbalances. The Vitality Index also provides a basis for structuring national and provincial growth policies, in the identification of urban centres with sustainable growth potential and vitality.