Declining rural facilities and services: regional models versus everyday life realities


Dr. Tialda Haartsen, University of Groningen

Suzan Christiaanse, MSc, University of Groningen



Many rural regions in Europe are confronted with decreasing numbers of facilities such as shops, banks and post offices, as well as basic services such as education, health care and public transport. This is caused by different simultaneously occurring processes such as the rationalization of facilities and services to achieve economies of scale, increased mobility, changing consumer behaviour, and demographic trends (ageing and depopulation). Consequently, this can lead to diminishing accessibility of facilities and services and even social or territorial inequality. Moreover, it is often feared that closure of local facilities will negatively affect the liveability of the village, the social capital and resilience of a community and quality of life of its inhabitants.  Besides losing the primary functions, also the ‘social’ and ‘symbolic’ roles that facilities play in village life can be lost. Hence, the loss of facilities may instigate overall ‘senses of loss‘ in village communities.

This interdisciplinary working group seeks to improve our understanding of how various processes of rural change have impact on the provision of facilities and services in rural areas. We are interested in how changes in facilities and services may lead to increasing regional differences,  how it affects residents everyday life,  and whether or not this is a problem.

Papers are invited on topics such as:

  • Regional differences in diminishing facilities, and the impact on the accessibility and distribution of facilities
  • Experiences of ‘loss’ and place change: place protective behavior (e.g. local protest, initiatives to keep facilities open), and how to deal with that in the daily routines and realities of everyday life
  • Examples and best practices of regional facility distribution plans. Do they result in ‘spatial justice’ and equity? How to deal with local citizen initiatives that may conflict with such regional plans?
  • The potential relation between decreasing facilities and services and in- or outmigration of people
  • Whether or not flexible, digital, temporary, seasonal and mobile services may be able to replace the more traditional and geographically fixed facilities.


10 minutes presentations and 10 min discussion for each participant.  The session ends with an interactive Round Table discussion with session participants and the audience.  Topics are introduced by the session organizers, based on the content of the papers.