The Living World
21 Topics | 21 Quizzes

Rural-Urban Fringe

The rural-urban fringe is where the green, open space meets built-up towns and cities.

As urban environments become more expensive, crowded and populated, there is more development in the rural-urban fringe. This phenomenon is known as counter-urbanisation. People and businesses are attracted to the fringe for several reasons, which can be categorised into push and pull factors.

Push and Pull Factors

Remember, push factors drive people away from an area and pull factors attract people to a particular area.


  • Push Factors: Families are often pushed from urban centres due to high housing costs, overcrowding and concerns about crime and pollution. This can negatively affect the quality of life and children’s upbringing.
  • Pull Factors: The rural-urban fringe offers more affordable and spacious housing with gardens, making it ideal for family living. The presence of good schools and safer, cleaner environments are also notable attractions.

Young Professionals

  • Push Factors: Young professionals might find the high cost of living in city centres unsustainable, especially with the rising costs of rent and limited living space. The fast-paced, high-stress urban lifestyle can also be a deterrent.
  • Pull Factors: The rural-urban fringe offers a more balanced lifestyle, combining the benefits of urban areas with the peace and quiet of rural areas. The growing trend of remote working allows young professionals to live further from their workplace without the daily commute.


    • Push Factors: In urban areas, businesses face high rental costs for properties, limited space for expansion, and sometimes, restrictive zoning laws. Congestion and parking issues can also be problematic for both employees and customers.
    • Pull Factors: The rural-urban fringe often has lower property costs and more available land, making it attractive for business expansion. These areas can also offer better transport links, like proximity to motorways, which makes logistics and commuting easier.

    Urban Sprawl

    Unchecked growth in the rural-urban fringe can lead to urban sprawl, which is defined as:

    “Uncontrolled expansion of urban areas into rural surroundings.”

    Urban sprawl replaces the rural environment with urban living. This involves introducing supermarkets, shopping centres, industry, large businesses, and housing estates, therefore broadening the boundaries of cities and towns at the expense of rural areas.

    Urban sprawl causes many problems, including: 

    • Loss of green spaces such as community parks or fields.
    • Stretching of local government finances, who have a lot more to handle with the same budget. This often leads to cuts in public services.
    • The countryside loses its character as it is urbanised, and farmland is bought by developers to build new homes.
    • Greater environmental impact from litter and car emissions. 

    Rural areas often designate greenbelts to protect green spaces, banning development within these zones. However, developers frequently get around this restriction by building commuter towns just beyond the greenbelt boundaries. These towns cause massive amounts of pollution and car dependency, and they can disrupt local communities while driving up house prices.

    Developers can either build on greenfield or brownfield sites, which each have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Evaluating greenfield sites

    Healthier environmentLoss of farmland
    Close to the countryside for leisureEncourages suburban sprawl
    No layout restrictionsOften poor public transport links
    Generally cheaper than brownfield sitesIncreases noise and light pollution
    Destruction of scenic views and wildlife habitats
    Expensive to install new services

    Evaluating brownfield sites

    Revives and reuses urban areasOften in more rundown areas, which require significant investment
    No loss of countryside or agricultureExpensive to restore the property due to clearing old buildings and decontaminating the land
    Services are already in place, so no need to install new onesHigher pollution levels
    Located near employment centres

    Key Terms

    GreenfieldAn area of land that have never been built on before.
    BrownfieldReusing previously developed land for another purpose.
    GreenbeltsA buffer zone between urban and rural areas, with a planning restriction in place to prevent urban sprawl.
    Commuter TownsTowns developed for residents who commute to the city for work, typically containing schools, shops and homes.

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