chapter  1
16 Pages

The location of small and medium enterprises: are there urban-rural differences?

INTRODUCTION For perhaps two centuries or more until the 1960s the United Kingdom experienced continuous urbanisation. Towns and cities provided a home for an increasing proportion of the British population, and the countryside experienced net out-migration. This was particularly the case in the South of England and in Wales, with the impact being somewhat weaker in Scotland and the North of England. David Keeble (1976) was one of the first to point to the remarkable reversal in this trend which began some time in the 1960s. A number of explanations for this were put forward by Keeble, and subsequently by other authors, most notably Fothergill and Gudgin (1982). The Keeble (1976; 1986) explanations have tended to focus upon the amenities and quality of life provided by the countryside, which act as a powerful magnet to individuals to live in such areas; in these cases the individuals then have to create their own jobs. The alternative arguments put forward by Fothergill and Gudgin were that the urban environment was hostile to enterprise - particularly smaller enterprise. They argued that the simple physical constraints of urban location meant that the conduct of business was difficult, with rents being high, premises being difficult to obtain and expansion on an existing site being almost impossible. In addition some cities in the 1960s and 1970s such as London, were implementing active policies to move industry away from city areas partly on the grounds that they were unsuitable neighbours for a residential population.