ASSET (Action to Strengthen Small European Towns)
2. The first presentation was by Valerie Carter, the President of ECOVAST (newly elected in October 2010). Her presentation was about the research that had been carried out in 2010 on the number of people across the whole of Europe (not just the European Union). The research was based on towns with a population above 10,000 as research in the UK showed that it is towns above this level which provide a good range of functions for their surrounding hinterlands.
The study highlighted that more than 77 million people across Europe lived in small towns – between 10,000 and 30,000. This is more than live in any single country except Germany and this evidence should be a lever to persuade Europe to develop policies for smaller towns and small towns should be encouraged to work together to press these arguments.
3. Andrea Weigert (ECOVAST Treasurer) made an intervention on work that had been carried out in Schleswig-Holstein, in Germany
4. Dr Gerhard Fasching from ECOVAST Austria reported on the work that he and Silvia Mayer had undertaken. They have now completed a database of all small towns in Austria and a Small Towns Register has been set up. It lists what assets each town has. This Register can now be used by towns in Austria for a wide range of purposes.
5. Pam Moore (Secretary General of ECOVAST)
As part of the research aspect of the ASSET project, in 2006 a questionnaire was devised to gather a wide range of information about Europe’s small towns. It addressed such topics as governance, population definitions and the levels of support operative in different states, and also sought to ascertain the principal challenges faced. Further questions included towns’ links to their hinterland, and whether other sources of information existed – good practice examples, research papers and websites.
Questionnaire 2 was completed by contacts from more than a dozen countries, and analysis of both questionnaires’ results have provided a wealth of information for ASSET. There is now a proposal for a third phase of research, which will commence by early 2011, and which will seek more in depth information on governance, on involvement in community led planning and the role played by local businesses in helping to encourage the vitality of small towns, and the stimulate their role as “hubs”.