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Causes of Urbanisation

Migration out of the city centres has been driven by the rising cost of city accommodation as residents compete with businesses for space in some of the central business districts. Poor planning and neglect have turned some inner city areas into slums. By day, city centres are bustling with activity but by night they are depopulated: empty concrete shells and glass graveyards.

Migration out of country areas has been driven by unemployment, social problems and isolation. In many parts of the world, government spending on country towns has dwindled. The migration from rural areas has also been driven by the opportunities which city living provides, such as education and recreation, but which are not easily available in country towns. Young people especially are moving to live in the suburbs of mega-cities, since houses in suburbs are often subsidised by local councils. Overall, urbanisation is driven by population growth.

People move to the suburbs because of cheaper house and land prices. The suburban dream of owning one’s own home has been made possible because private car ownership and relatively cheap oil enables people to travel to and from work.

When developers construct a new suburb, jobs are created. From jobs and spending, the councils collect taxes. To attract builders to their district, councils pay for the construction of roads, sewerage, water supply, telephone lines, gas pipes, electricity, schools and shopping areas. The building industry pays for the cost of the land and materials for the house. The councils pay for the cost of the 'infrastructure'. Councils encourage urbanisation, and it is not the new house owner it is the existing ratepayers who pay the full cost of setting up the suburbs.

Councils and central government heavily subsidise the construction of suburbs compared with city centres and so suburbs are favoured by more people. Bigger cheaper houses have enticed more and more people into the suburb and the population explosion is not contained. The city boundaries are pushed outwards, consuming areas of natural beauty, land and resources.

The problem of urbanisation is driven by an image created by the advertising industry of the ideal home set in rural surroundings yet within 10 minutes drive of the central business district.

The two issues - cars and urbanisation - are linked. More roads are built to keep up with the cars pouring out of the factories. Urban sprawl increases car demand, ownership and use by creating greater travelling distances between the home and places of activity such as work. Shopping centres are built far away from suburbs, making car ownership a virtual necessity, especially as they are surrounded by huge car parks. The wider cities spread the more uneconomical it becomes to expand public transport systems and the more car-dependent citizens become.

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