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The urban field is a form of urban habitat of relatively high density involving a good transportation system and a broad array of economic, social and recreational opportunities. Even though the sections of the urban field may still be in agricultural use, the area is nonetheless urbanized because anywhere within it a person is able to connect his/her home to telephones, radio and television facilities, electricity, gas, water supply systems and a network of freeway and primary roads.
An urban field is a field in the centre of an urban area, with a boundary wall and road frontage. Planning permission is not essential for a field to be classed as an 'urban field', although Outline Planning permission is desirable. It is centered on and dominated to a certain extent by a metropolitan area of at least 200,000 to 300,000 people. Its outer limits can be defined by two things.
- 1. The maximum time or distance that most people are prepared to commute.
- 2. The time or distance that most people are prepared to spend traveling to or from weekly or weekend recreational activities. The daily commute perspective defines the "hardcore" of the urban field and results in regions of about a 40–50-mile radius from the central metropolitan area. The weekend recreational area perspective results in a much wider field of about 100 miles with far less determinate boundaries.
The actual extent of the urban field depends upon the freeway facilities available and the density of metropolitan development. In the South, Midwest and on the Prairies the fields may be quite extensive. In the East and the area bordering the lower Great Lakes where metropolitan densities are rather high, the urban field are much more restricted and may run into each other to form "galaxies". In these higher density areas the extent of the field, as defined as criterion 1, may be only 20–30 miles and the recreational field about 75 miles.
The planning implications of the urban field have become quite obvious. These large areas are inhabited and used by urbanites but they involve vast quantities of land and often very sensities environmental conditions. The management questions involve the preservation of valuable agricultural land and the protection of this land from abuse. A related issue that is becoming more important involves the pricing of farms and farmland out of the realm of wealthy individuals seeking weekend retreats or good speculative investments. The management of recreational resources and the provision of land for campsites and second homes has also become a question of concern, along with questions of conservation. Thus, the definition of an urban area according to the extent of its urban field has raised an enormous number of questions related to the management of agricultural, natural and recreational resources around a major metropolitan center.