The “Beyond the Metropolis – on Quality of Life in Small and Medium-Sized Towns” conference was held at the Culture Depot (Zajezdnia Kultury) revitalised post-railway site in Pleszew on 22 September, in Poland’s first fifteen-minute town which has been working to implement the compact city concept for several years.
According to a CBOS (Public Opinion Research Centre) survey quoted by Mayor of Pleszew Arkadiusz Ptak, only 13% of Poles want to live in large cities, other respondents expressing a preference for small and medium-sized towns. The mayor further accentuated that Pleszew considers its small town status an advantage rather than embarrassment, anything you need available at your fingertips. This is a great potential for small and medium-sized towns, which is why the conference explored peripheral areas along with their advantages, disadvantages, successes and issues. Scientists, experts and local government practitioners shared their experience and opinions, listening closely to comments offered by attendants arriving from 38 cities and towns throughout Poland.
When opening the session, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak recalled assorted activities her institution launched to support specific revitalisation activities engaged in by local governments on the one hand, and expand knowledge and awareness of what revitalisation is and how to most effectively handle it on the other.
Director of the Department of Assistance Programmes at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy Maciej Aulak spoke of the rules of support for revitalisation activities under the new financial perspective for the years 2021-27.
Professor Paweł Starosta, Ph.D. Hab., of the University of Łódź spoke of the renaissance of post-industrial peripheral towns. He remarked that the situation of such locations in our part of Europe is considerably more difficult than that of their US or West European counterparts, where the effort to rebuild and revitalise post-industrial cities and towns had begun relatively early. Central and Eastern Europe began discussing the topic and implementing such projects only after CEE states had joined the European Union.
Do peripheral areas warrant high life quality – such was the topic of the first conference debate. That part of the meeting coincided with the first Local Development Forum bloc, participants sharing opinions of how peripherality ought to be defined, what are the key flywheels for such marginalised locations, and what major barriers one has to struggle with. Discussions focused on quality of life index studies and related local resident surveys, as well as on ways of awakening dormant urban peripheral potentials, the housing policy a possible development tool.
The second debate focused on revitalisation experience in small towns, panellists including mayor of Wieleń (Wielkopolska region) Elżbieta Rybarczyk who presented successful revitalisation projects completed locally over recent years. The debate included Revitalisation Law solutions, and key factors to the success and scale of any revitalisation endeavour.
During the third part of the meeting, Association of Polish Cities experts spoke of quality of life indices listed in the Local Development Monitor.