The role of an urban hierarchy as spatial planning instrument
In general, regional development over time results in an unbalanced spatial pattern and distribution of nodes. A spatially unbalanced region is likely to be directly linked to functioning and dynamics of the nodes in that specific region. Depending on the type and role of each node in a region, some nodes develop and establish themselves faster in a region, resulting in the development of a natural urban hierarchy. The urban hierarchy is therefore related to the dynamics and relationships between a set of nodes in a region. In time, certain nodes excel in development related to the relationship with other nodes in the region, hence the spatially unbalanced distribution of nodes in a region. Over the years, regional planners studied the different factors contributing to the development of a region and its urban hierarchy. Theoretically, regional planners aimed to strategically guide the development in the region to create a more spatially balanced region and distribution of nodes. In terms of the urban hierarchy, regional planners aim to establish a gradual distribution of the number of nodes and the level of development. This spatially balanced approach is pursued through the implementation of different spatial planning instruments, aimed to guide the development of the region in a balanced nature. Spatial planning instruments such as nodes, corridors, planning regions, etc. are applied in a region in an effort to create the desired development of the region and urban hierarchy. Despite different strategic planning efforts, unbalanced growth in the region and hierarchy prevails. These efforts and instruments that are applied are focussed on the desired effect without considering the urban hierarchy and potential of the nodes in the urban hierarchy. The actual role of an urban hierarchy in regional planning is not considered as a spatial planning instrument. In this research, the role of an urban hierarchy as spatial planning instrument is investigated. To illustrate the different effects and impact an urban hierarchy can have in spatial planning, different applications are used on a national and sub-continental scale. The methods used in this research to illustrate the significance of an urban hierarchy as spatial planning instrument, are based on both theoretical and practical principles used today. By applying these principles, it was found that an urban hierarchy as spatial planning instrument could play a significant role in creating a more balanced spatial distribution of nodes in a region. In addition to this, an urban hierarchy can also be used to integrate and link different nodes and regions in order to establish positive and sustainable economic relationships
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