Przegląd Geograficzny (2024) vol. 96, iss. 1

Classifications of small towns in Poland – methodological approaches and their results

Jerzy Bański, Marcin Mazur, Damian Mazurek

Przegląd Geograficzny (2024) vol. 96, iss. 1, pp. 51-73 | Full text

The work detailed here sought to test out the methods underpinning three different classifications of small urban centres in Poland, as well as to offer a preliminary interpretation of the outcomes obtained. For the purposes of this study, the smaller urban centres being worked on are the settlement units that do enjoy town rights, but also have 20,000 inhabitants or fewer. As of 2022, Poland had 739 such localities, though real-life accessibility of statistical data in practice reduced the number researched to 722 (meeting the above criteria as of 2019).

A morphologically-based classification making reference to the country’s “Database of Topographic Objects” as regards land cover within the administrative boundaries of towns and cities was carried out, and it proved possible to distinguish the categories of “housing-estate”, industrial and R&R towns, as well as towns characterised by dichotomy. The classification applied two criteria that draw upon four variables: the cover of urbanised areas, the cover of areas of greenspace, the cover of residential areas, and the cover of industrial areas (see Fig. 1). Equally, a functional/morphological approach taken with the same database allowed for the identification – via an alternative method – of three main categories of small urban centre (i.e. the monofunctional, multifunctional or oligofunctional). The analysis here was subordinated to the land-use structure in regard to function served. The main functions identified in this way were: residential, industrial, service-related, agricultural, forest-related and other. The aim of the further part of the analysis of land-use structure by function served was to indicate those categories in a given town that were of markedly above-average significance.

A third, multi-criterion classification made simultaneous reference to conditioning of a structural, a location-related, and an administrative hierarchy-related nature. In analysing the role of particular components to the enterprise-branch structure in small urban centres, it was possible to arrive at a division into two core groups: of towns characterized by a specialised structure in which one element dominates (as with industrial or tourist centres, etc.), or of towns of multi-branch structure. Where locations of the centres were concerned, it was possible to draw a distinction between two key groups: of those with good access to centres further up the hierarchy (sub-regional, regional or central), or those located peripherally, and thus characterised by limited access to the more major centres in question. A third component of the multi-criterion classification concerned the relations pertaining between small urban centres and their surroundings, with these capable of being either local or supra-local. The outcome from the multi-criterion classification is the assignment of each small urban centre analysed to one of 8 three-element categories.

Irrespective of the approach adopted, work on the systematics of small urban centres in Poland always leads to certain “rules” of distribution being identified. This reflects the way in which their development is very much conditioned by a particular location and its history. It is reasonable to assume that, in the case of those centres linked more closely with their immediate surroundings than with global networks of interdependence, it is endogenous conditioning and the way this links up with a location as defined precisely that plays a particularly key role. Depending on the specifics of the given subject matter or dimension characterising a given classification, a leading role might still be played by various different kinds of conditioning, and we could be dealing with various spatial “regularities”.

This study’s deployment of three core methods of classifying small urban centres allowed for wide-ranging analysis regarding the regularities by which such localities in Poland are distributed. It is also made easier to interpret the distribution that can be noted. A further research step might involve the cross-analysis of this paper’s three different attempts at classification – with this likely to offer new conclusions from regional analysis of the differentiation present among the studied towns.

Keywords: small towns, classification, spatial differentiation, socio-economic functions, Poland

Jerzy Bański [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN; Uniwersytet Jana Kochanowskiego, Instytut Geografii i Nauk o Środowisku
Marcin Mazur [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN
Damian Mazurek [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN


APA: Bański, J., Mazur, M., & Mazurek, D. (2024). Klasyfikacje małych miast w Polsce – ujęcia metodologiczne i ich rezultaty. Przegląd Geograficzny, 96(1), 51-73.

MLA: Bański, Jerzy, et al. "Klasyfikacje małych miast w Polsce – ujęcia metodologiczne i ich rezultaty". Przegląd Geograficzny, vol. 96, no. 1, 2024, pp. 51-73.

Chicago: Bański, Jerzy, Mazur, Marcin and Mazurek, Damian. "Klasyfikacje małych miast w Polsce – ujęcia metodologiczne i ich rezultaty". Przegląd Geograficzny 96, no. 1 (2024): 51-73.

Harvard: Bański, J., Mazur, M., & Mazurek, D. 2024. "Klasyfikacje małych miast w Polsce – ujęcia metodologiczne i ich rezultaty". Przegląd Geograficzny, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 51-73.