Geographia Polonica (1989) vol. 56

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Population and employment changes in metropolitian cores

Christopher M. Law

Geographia Polonica (1989) vol. 56, pp. 81-90


The problems of the inner city have received much attention from geographers and others in recent years (Berry 1980; Hall 1981). The essence of the problem as discussed in these studies and the statements of governments is deprivation as shown by low incomes, high unemployment, poor housing and environment and inadequate lifestyle opportunities. This focus on deprivation is also illustrated by the critics of inner city policy who rightly point out that poverty is not confined to these zones within the metropolis, and that policies should be more people than place orientated. In many inner city studies it is not clear to what extent the city centre and its problems are included. In general the difficulties of the city centre have received much less attention, perhaps because very few people live there (see Davies and Champion 1983 for a recent review). Together the city centre and inner city constitute the core of metropolitan regions. To many decline in the core is only a problem if deprivation is involved. Indeed until at least thirty years ago the core was considered overdeveloped and plans were produced which proposed a decrease in the number of people and jobs. However, the experience of decline has convinced many central city authorities that a continuation of this process threatens the viability of services as well as civic pride. It is also argued that rapid decline may set in motion forces which will make the process cumulative as confidence in the future of the area — and through this investment — evaporates. It has therefore become an urgent priority for many central city authorities to stabilise their population and economy through the renewal of the environment and the creation of new employment.The inner area of Manchester (which includes part of the neighbouring city of Salford) is an example of a metropolitan core which has experienced considerable decline in recent years. The local authorities of Manchester and Salford and the former Greater Manchester Council (abolished in 1986) were committed to stopping this decline (G.M.C. 1981). Back in 1982 their efforts appeared to be meeting with little success, a fact which prompted a number of questions. Were they attempting an impossible task? Is core area decline inevitable? Did Manchester have any unique features which might worsen its experience? What could it learn from other cities? To answer these questions the Greater Manchester Council invited a small group of geographers from the University of Salford to review the experience of core areas in Western countries and make recommendations about what should be done in Manchester. Ideally it would have been desirable to make a detailed study of the fifty or so metropolitan areas in North America and Western Europe which have a population of more than one million, but time and resources were not available for such a work. With hindsight it is possible to suggest that comprehensive and comparable statistics would not have been available either. Instead the study was based on a general review of the literature and eight case studies involving Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Lille, Lyon, Hamburg, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. In the brief space available in this paper the main points of the study will be discussed.


Christopher M. Law, Department of Geography, University of Salford, Salford, UK