Urban sprawl is a process shaping the space of contemporary urban areas. The costs generated by this phenomenon force central and local authorities to adopt and implement a spatial policy limiting those costs. However, there is no method in Polish spatial policy that determines the extent of this phenomenon around cities, and thus identifies the area of intervention. Therefore, the purpose of the article is to propose a method of delimitation of urban areas at risk of urban sprawl. The proposed method of delimitation honors the characteristics of urban sprawl relating to spatial structure, socio-economic processes and efficiency of spatial policy. The method can be useful for conducting spatial policy aimed at reducing costs due to urban sprawl. It particularly pertains to the policy implemented at the central and regional level. Research results indicate that, in most Polish urban areas, delimitations used thus far designate too little of the area around core cities. Although the goals of reducing the negative consequences of urban sprawl are formulated at the level of national spatial policy, the methods of delimitation used thus far do not take into account the specificity of this phenomenon. Underestimating the extent of urban sprawl results in a lack of effectiveness of spatial policy due to the omission of specific areas in public intervention. This particularity is related to the fact that these are usually external areas—the most distant from the core city. These areas have the highest costs for urban sprawl. At the same time, these are areas in the early stages of spatial growth, in which a consistent spatial structure can still be kept while implementing proper spatial policy.
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