TOWN – Small and Medium-Sized Towns

Thematic scope

Balanced and polycentric development of the European territory is a key challenge of territorial development and cohesion policy. ESPON has already paid considerable attention to the geographical spread of urban and economic activity throughout the European territory. This includes among else the applied research projects on cities and urban agglomerations, the roles of cities in territorial development, secondary growth poles, and development potentials in different types of areas.

The results and evidence from these projects needs to be complemented with further research and additional evidence on the functional roles of small and medium-sized towns and how they contribute to the development of their territorial context and bring added value to the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Please read more about the main research areas and main results envisaged on the next page.

Policy questions

  • What kind of roles and functions do small and medium sized towns perform in the European territorial structure, e.g. as providers of employment, growth and services of general interest, that contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth?
  • What are the potentials and barriers for development of small and medium sized towns in different territorial contexts, and how can policy at different levels unleash the potentials and diminish the barriers in ways that strengthen their functional character?
  • What type of governance and cooperation arrangements exist at various levels aiming to support the development of small and medium-sized towns and their territorial context, and how can policy further support these types of arrangements in order to strengthen their contribution to a more balanced territorial development of the European regions?

Lead Partner

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven - Belgium

Detailed information on the contracted project team can be found under Transnational Project Groups.

Sounding Board

Claudia Popescu, Romania

Miguel Rivas, Spain

Budget: € 649,804.00

Project’s lifetime: February 2012 – December 2014

Delivery of Reports

Inception Report: 30 June 2012

Interim Report: 31 January 2013

Draft Final Report: 28 February 2014

Final Report: 31 August 2014


Reports will be published once they are approved by the ESPON Monitoring Committee

More information

Please contact the Project Expert at the ESPON Coordination Unit: Peter Billing, e-mail: [email protected]

Main research areas

The main objective of this project is to create a methodology to identify small and medium-sized towns. This methodology should be compatible with the recently revised urbanisation classification at EU scale identifying all small and medium-sized towns as places having an urban centre with a population between 5 000 and 50 000 inhabitants.

In addition the project will provide evidence on the roles and functions that small and medium sized towns perform taking into account the different territorial contexts, which range from being nearby to a much larger urban centre to having a sparsely populated rural hinterland. The conditions for development and the functions that the small and medium-sized towns perform in these territorial contexts are significantly different. How can these different territorial contexts be taken into account and what is the relevant functional area of a small or medium-sized town?

Finally the project will assess the different governance and cooperation arrangements used in ESPON countries to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public policies and public services. In particular, policies aimed to increase critical mass, which range from promoting cooperation between local authorities to the merger of small local authorities, should be considered in this study.

Main results envisaged

  • A methodological framework for studying small and medium-sized towns in their functional area contexts.
  • Analysis and empirical evidence on the development and territorial potentials of small and medium sized towns in their respective functional area contexts at both European and regional level.
  • Evidence on good practices based on 10 in-depth case studies of small and medium sized towns in various territorial contexts, including examples of policies, methods, tools, cooperation arrangements etc. that support the functional development of small and medium-sized towns.
  • Policy considerations based on the findings and evidence from the analyses and case-studies on the development and functions of small and medium sized towns, including considerations on what type of policy options and approaches that could/should be considered in order to strengthen their contribution towards territorial cohesion and a balanced territorial development of Europe.


Final Report - Main Report

  • Acrobat Document | 9.28MB

Final Report - Scientific Report

  • Acrobat Document | 33.75MB

Final Report - Case Study Belgium

  • Acrobat Document | 8.54MB

Final Report - Case Study Czech Republic

  • Acrobat Document | 3.80MB

Final Report - Case Study Cyprus

  • Acrobat Document | 3.74MB

Final Report - Case Study France

  • Acrobat Document | 3.07MB

Final Report - Case Study Italy

  • Acrobat Document | 6.21MB

Final Report - Case Study Poland

  • Acrobat Document | 5.18MB

Final Report - Case Study Slovenia

  • Acrobat Document | 12.25MB

Final Report - Case Study Spain

  • Acrobat Document | 7.74MB

Final Report - Case Study Sweden

  • Acrobat Document | 4.90MB

Final Report - Case Study UK

  • Acrobat Document | 1.34MB

Draft Final Report

  • Acrobat Document | 8.78MB

Interim Report - Main Report

  • Acrobat Document | 6.89MB

Interim Report - Annex 1 References

  • Acrobat Document | 119KB

Interim Report - Annex 2 Polish Case Study

  • Acrobat Document | 120KB

Interim Report - Annex 3 Town Typologies

  • Acrobat Document | 1.32MB

Interim Report - Annex 4 Socio-economic Overview

  • Acrobat Document | 261KB

Interim Report - Annex 5 Policy Overview

  • Acrobat Document | 136KB

Inception Report

  • Acrobat Document | 13.50MB

Project specifications

  • Acrobat Document | 77KB