Third-party funded project

Potentials of Small Towns in Peripheral Regions

Research Department: Regeneration of Cities and Towns

IRS Research Topic: Forms and Implications of Spatial Governance

Project Leader within IRS: Dr. Manfred Kühn

Project Team: Christopher Knappe

Funding Organization: Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung

Duration: 10/2013 - 03/2014

Small towns in peripheral regions constitute a unique settlement type in Germany. Their geographical location has a strong impact upon their development dynamics. The more peripheral their location, the greater the threat of population decline. Similarly, peripheral towns are more likely to struggle with unemployment than more centrally located towns. Coping with such complex problems and the consequences of shrinkage represent major challenges for municipal decision-makers. Dwindling populations, unemployment, economic decline, cuts to municipal services, the dismantling of underutilised social and technological infrastructures, declining revenue from real estate and corporate tax, a drop in residents' purchasing power, and a tight municipal budget leave local decision-makers little room to manoeuvre.

The IRS study on the “Potentials of Small Towns in Peripheral Regions” set out to produce a nuanced picture of the kinds of challenges that small towns in peripheral regions of Germany currently face and might come to expect in the future. It utilised in-depth research and case studies to account for diverse economic, social, demographic, financial and cultural developments and local agency structures. The study also identified various means whereby small peripheral towns can potentially foster the development of their rural surroundings.


Kühn, M. (2015). Kleinstädte in ländlichen Regionen: Potenziale der Peripherie. Ländlicher Raum, (1), 17-19.