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EUROPEAN BRIEFING: Polycentricity in European spatial planning: from an analytical tool to a normative agenda


  • Simin Davoudi


The notion of polycentricity is gaining widespread currency in both academic and professional debates. It has opened its way in the spatial policy documents of the European Union and member states alike, and has become one of the key components of the integrated spatial development strategy promoted by the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP). Whilst polycentricity is increasingly shaping the spatial policy discourses both in the Commission and in member states, the precise meaning of the term has remained elusive. The first two sections of this article aim to unpack the concept of polycentricity, trace its origin and its development and clarify the confusion over its multiple interpretations at various spatial scales. The third section of the article explains how the concept of polycentricity which has traditionally been used as an analytical tool to explain an existing or emerging reality is now increasingly being used to determine that reality. This is based on the analyses of the use of polycentricity within the European spatial planning framework and in particular the ESDP. Here, the article raises a number of questions regarding the promotion of the polycentric urban regions as one of the ESDP's key policy options for a balanced territorial development across Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • Simin Davoudi, 2003. "EUROPEAN BRIEFING: Polycentricity in European spatial planning: from an analytical tool to a normative agenda," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(8), pages 979-999, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eurpls:v:11:y:2003:i:8:p:979-999
    DOI: 10.1080/0965431032000146169

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