The Five Great Dilemmas of Territorial Development

Territorial development is at the heart of many conflicts between objectives.

Economic Development versus Territorial Equality

The ordered disposition sought by territorial development does not necessarily correspond to an economic optimum, which would suppose a priority development of settlements and regions already favored by their localization, their assets in terms of manpower, image, etc. Territorial development, on the contrary, has, among its objectives, to re create an equality of chances between the inhabitants, whatever the place where they live: opportunities of jobs and good salaries, access to public (especially education) and private (shopping and services) amenities. This often needs a public intervention to make up territorial handicaps. This is true in particular for developing countries, where the easiest solution is to give a priority to regions already developed (generally, the capital city, which grows to become a ‘primatial’ city, and frequently the seashore). In these countries territorial development policies generally do not exist or are purely formal. Even in developed countries, the support to territorial development policies is more vigorous when the economic growth is high than in periods of economic crisis.

Liberalism versus Planning

As a voluntary intervention, territorial development is a spatial planning, complementary of the economic planning, which ‘spatializes’ its perspectives. Moreover, the setting up of economic planning often takes place in those countries which have felt necessary the territorial development. The best example is the Soviet Union, even if the economic planning appeared to be too rigid and if territorial development was clearly subordinate to economic planning.

Territorial development, spatial section of planning, is naturally conflicting with the laissez faire, therefore with liberal ideas. Supporters of the last ones (including the European Union) do not cease to claim the winding out of constraints and of financial aids linked with territorial development, which they consider as concurrence distortions.

Efficiency versus Equity

Territorial development has as well to contribute to the solution of social disparities, which accompany often, but not always, spatial disparities. It is important to question who will be the final beneficiaries of subsidies given to regions receiving priority. A good example is the case of tourism, which beneficiates sometimes more to the investors, often foreigners to the region, than to local population (especially in the case of developing countries).

Territorial development, as concerned with equity as it can be, must however reach economic efficiency, in order not to be rejected. It cannot appear as a brake upon modernization in the name of maintaining traditional ways of doing, even if the last can represent a qualitative extra for the local economy (craft production, open air agriculture, sea fishing, etc.).

Development versus Environment

Choices of territorial development often conflict with environmental concerns. It is often the case for infrastructures, in particular, for motorways which favor emissions of greenhouse gas, noise, and pollution. It is where space is the rarest, therefore, the most desired and the most fragile that this dilemma has the greatest chance to create a conflict; this concerns notably not only the littoral, but also towns and often the mountains.

The development of tourism acutely appeals arbitration, search of a balance between development (construction of lodgings, creation of jobs, generation of receipts, and reception of currencies), protection of the environment (limitation of the frequentation and preserved areas), and social objectives (favor the opportunity of holidays for the largest part of the population).

Centralization versus Decentralization

Territorial development policies have this in particular that they are conceived at the national scale – even if it is concerned by various scales – and that they are expressed through mechanisms and actions exerted only on a part, sometimes limited, of the territory.

Orientations of territorial development are generally defined in a very centralized way. Their implementation is more often due to local authorities (regions or provinces, departements or counties, municipalities, etc.). A solution of this contradiction may be searched through procedures of contractualization for the length of a period of planning (now 2007–13 in the European Union) between state, regions, towns, local areas, etc.