Managing rural decay. Strategies and responsibilities for declining regions in Austria

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The Austrian population is growing, but not every region is profiting from a positive migration balance, which is the main driver for population change. Especially peripheries are suffering from constant population loss followed by cuts in infrastructure and service provision when the critical mass is not reached anymore. A decline of investments is already taking place according services and infrastructures – from the private side, as well as from the public side: schools, post offices, police stations, public transport lines, retail stores and other services of general interest have been stepwise reduced in many peripheral areas. In a response to the ongoing depletion of mainly rural or formerly industrial areas the - foremost local - political side keeps on introducing growth strategies in order to force a turnaround. Given the bunch of available instruments, program logics and chains of habit it is understandably but for some regions a catching up process will most likely not be successful unless the budgets will be constantly overspent. In the following paper we would therefore like to discuss how strategies on 'advancing backwards' could possibly work out in Austria and who would be public and private stakeholders of which level to get motivated for such ideas? Which planning and development instruments are suitable to accompany 'sustainable decline processes'? The paper will take empirical findings of Gruber et al. (2015) as a starting point. New planning document analyses and stakeholder interviews will further back this paper.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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