Polycentric development in the Cape Town city region: Empirical assessment and consideration of spatial policy implications.

Ken Sinclair-Smith (2015). Polycentric development in the Cape Town city region: Empirical assessment and consideration of spatial policy implications. Development Southern Africa, 32 (2): 131-150




The concept of the ‘polycentric urban region’ has been popularised both as a theoretical concept for understanding regional urban systems in an era of reduced transport and communication costs, and as a normative policy objective in its own right. This paper explores its relevance to the rapidly urbanising Cape Town city-region. First, empirical evidence for the emergence of polycentric regional development patterns was considered. Shifts in relative settlements sizes (morphological polycentrism) over the period 1991–2011 were examined using population data, and patterns of inter-settlement interactions (functional polycentrism) were explored by analysing commuting information. Contrary to expectations, trends toward polycentric development were found to be weak. Second, the paper considers the relevance and value of polycentric development thinking for regional economic and spatial planning policy, concluding that there are insufficient grounds for policy intervention aimed at encouraging polycentric regional development or countering the dominance of Cape Town in the region.

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Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Development Southern Africa
Year 2015
Author(s) Ken Sinclair-Smith
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