No. 33




Administrative reform within the context of urban planning (theories) *

08 June 2016


RiTo No. 33, 2016

  • Kertu Anni

    PhD Student, Department of Geography, University of Tartu; Coordinator, Union of Põlva County Municipalities

  • Tõnu Oja

    Professor of Geoinformatics and Cartography, University of Tartu

This article is a contribution to the discussions pertaining to the Estonian administrative reform, analysing the issue from the urban planning point of view and making proposals as to how the administrative borders could be changed in urban sprawls. Based on the development of the urban region of Tartu in the context of theoretical urban models, discussed in depth in a Master’s thesis by Kertu Anni, the authors try to point out if and to what extent the general principles of urban planning should be taken into account when changing the administrative borders in urban regions in the course of the implementation of the administrative reform. We also discuss the reasonability of taking whole administrative units as “units” in the “merging and dividing”, and what the alternatives are. On the example of the urban region of Tartu, a more detailed insight is provided into what directions and to what extent the development of the city could go in the perspective of the next 30 years, and a theoretically suitable border solution. As a result, the authors identify the “third stage” (the first was the leasing of the manorial lands surrounding the city, and the second was the transfer thereof to the city) mechanism of extending the city lands in the more general context of Estonia.

As a theoretical ideal, and as a mechanism of extending the city lands, border changes could be made so that the urbanised regions of the neighbouring local governments are added to the city (Tartu). This could be called the third stage mechanism of extending the city lands, which would logically be accompanied by an administrative reform of the territory with rural way of life within the context of the county (of Tarty) or more widely. The aim of the changes should be to create sufficiently large, and consequently administratively capable, rural municipalities that function as well as possible.

The authors consider it important that, when making the abovementioned changes in the administrative borders, today’s borders of the administrative units would cease to be regarded as “untouchable”, and out of the borders thinking would be adopted in the course of the process. This means that the current “merging and dividing” of administrative units should be forgotten for a moment. Instead of that, studies and analyses should be made that would bring out a scientifically grounded functional zoning on the basis of which new borders could be drawn. In this way also the currently functioning structure of attraction centres would be more supported.

Changes of administrative borders in urban sprawl regions are necessary for several reasons. In a longer perspective and from the standpoint of urban planning, it is not sustainable to have the city on the territory of a rural municipality because, without changing the administrative border, the city will have few levers and power to direct the development or, in certain cases, also curb undesired developments on the outskirts of the city. In order that “new growth areas” could become part of the “old” whole, the administrative border must be changed for a start. Then the issues of the compactness, the functions, and the location of services and centres of the city, and other issues affecting the development of the city could be resolved. Rural municipalities in the new borders should at the same time focus on the issues that are important to rural areas, stop opposing to the city, and support the functioning of the whole region as a well-functioning rear land.

Full article in Estonian

* Peer-reviewed article.