Regional Planning Report "Ensuring Public Services"
The BBSR presents the Regional Planning Report (Raumordnungsbericht, ROB) as an independent report in accordance with s. 25 (2) ROG (Spatial Planning Act). For the first time, the report has a thematic focus, supporting implementation of the guideline to “ensure public services”. It is 140 pages long, documenting results by region with numerous maps and images.
Residents are consumers that produce demand for public services. Depending on the direction and extent of changes in the size and structure of the population, individual aspects of public services need to be adapted in different ways. Economic development, with its key components of economic growth and employment, determines tax revenue and therefore the financial means available to the public sector to ensure public services. Private income forms the financial basis of individuals’ ability to use privately organised and public service offers. In this context, the ROB initially presents the fundamental connections between demographic and economic development according to regions.
Ensuring public services in state and regional planning
A central chapter presents the importance that ensuring public services has had with respect to state and regional planning to date. The empirical basis for this is provided by a planning analysis of all state development measures and regional plans, based on the BBSR Regional Planning Monitor (Raumordnungsplan-Monitor, ROPLAMO). A further focus lies on the relationship between formal and informal instruments in regional planning. The report subsequently describes the extent to which the federal states have further developed their concepts for central locations. In this context, the focus also lies on aspects such as local supplies and the adaptation of peripheral settlement structures.
The report concludes that above all, new plans resulting from a continuing population decline address the issues of ensuring public services in a comprehensive way. Moreover, the further development of central-location concepts has progressed in contrasting ways in different federal states. In future, state and regional planning must address the individual fields of ensuring public services more intensively and more comprehensively. The willingness to do so not only depends on the demographic pressure to act, but also on the available personnel and content-related resources of the regional planners.
Challenges of demographic transformation
In this context, the report also addresses the interaction between regional and expert planning. The focus initially lies on the role of regional planning regulations. The ROB subsequently shows that expert planning has already been reacting to demographic change since the 2000s by adapting its standards.
The report highlights the challenges of future demographic development using the examples of selected fields that are important to regional planning. In those selected fields, three target values of regional planning policy (specific service quality with adequate accessibility at socially acceptable prices) are affected differently depending on the specific form of service and demographic development. Accessibility is a key value in this respect.
Mobility and digitisation: New concepts
One other important aspect affects the role of mobility and digital infrastructure in the context of ensuring public services. In future, integrated mobility concepts and flexible, alternative forms of use will be required that take the individual needs of different user groups into account more strongly. In addition to infrastructure development, auxiliary measures are required to use digitisation in ensuring the provision of public services. An expansion strategy is needed to shape target-group orientated digital instruments and media, while also supporting the digital competence of civil society. In the context of ensuring public services, it is especially important not to exclude population groups with poor digital skills. Nevertheless, digital advances will have a wide range of effects on providing public services.
Ensuring public services: Consolidating and expanding services
Finally, the report includes key empirical results, analyses and fundamental recommended measures. Despite the fact that the challenges to ensure public services will grow in future, the report shows that many adaptation measures are already in effect and that suitable approaches do exist.
The aim is to strengthen existing public service offers in prioritised target regions, towns and cities, and expand them with a view to the specific needs of individual groups. In rural and declining regions, the locations’ existing structures must be preserved. Nevertheless, specific services will be regionally concentrated as a result, making new concepts necessary to ensure the mobility of the target group.
Regional concentration makes it possible to exploit synergy effects, leading to an improvement in the overall quality of services. In this way, rural areas can test innovative solutions, thereby playing a pioneering role with respect to other regions. Nevertheless, in view of the imminent challenges and fundamental importance of ensuring public services, it is necessary to achieve a social-policy consensus on the core elements of regional public service provision and its funding. Only then can equivalent living conditions be ensured.
The Regional Planning Report “Ensuring Public Services” is available as a PDF on the BBSR website. Printed copies can be ordered from the BBSR free of charge at: firstname.lastname@example.org; Subject: ROB 2017.