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  • Author or Editor: John Sturzaker x
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Reforming Spatial Governance in England

This topical, edited collection analyses the state of the planning system in England and offers a robust, evidence-based review of over a decade of change since the Conservatives came into power. With a critique of ongoing planning reforms by the UK government, the book argues that the planning system is often blamed for a range of issues caused by ineffective policymaking by government.

Including chapters on housing, localism, design, zoning, and the consequences of Brexit for environmental planning, the contributors unpick a complicated set of recent reforms and counter the claims of the think-tank-led assault on democratic planning.

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This chapter introduces the book by first reviewing how a narrative of planning ‘failing to deliver’ has been constructed over recent decades on the island of Britain particularly in England. It reviews the manner in which planning has been critiqued and scapegoated since the 1970s by rightist and liberal critics, the ideas that ostensibly underpin their positions, and the resultant episodes of attempted deregulation of planning. The recrudescence of such critiques over the ‘long 2010s’, including surrounding the ‘radical’ reforms of planning proposed in 2020, is also explored. The discussion then moves to consider the book’s central question of whether many of the issues that the planning system and profession have had to contend with in fact reflect central state ‘failings’, such as endless and accelerating cycles of reform, policy churn, and tinkering by governments, which have rarely allowed one set of planning reforms to bed down before new policy reforms and initiatives have been launched. Finally, the contents and structure of the rest of the book are outlined.

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Launched with much fanfare as a new scale and alternative to the regional planning structures established in England under the New Labour governments of the 1990s and 2000s, localism’s most tangible effect on planning has been the rights conferred on local communities and businesses to prepare neighbourhood plans. With the current government agenda for planning veering away from localism and back towards centralism, the chapter reflects on the legacies and lessons of almost a decade of experience of neighbourhood planning and its future prospects. It concludes that poorer areas have been much less likely to produce neighbourhood plans, highlights the regressive consequences of that inequality and suggests that fundamental changes are needed to make it work effectively.

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The conclusion reviews the findings of the other chapters and returns to a question set up in the introduction, asking whether the issues in planning in England reflect: failings of the planning system, profession and ‘discipline’; failings of the state within which planning has to operate (which then uses planning as a scapegoat for its own failure to deliver); or a combination of both state and planning failure. The conclusion then identifies four cross-cutting themes that recur in the preceding chapters, those of rhetoric, rapidity (of reform), resourcing (or the lack of) and regressive outcomes. Across these four themes, the conclusion summarises how UK government (in)action has caused or exacerbated problems with the operation of the English planning system, and represents an unprecedented failure of that government to design and implement a functioning planning system.

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Planning, Localism and Institutional Change

Cities across the globe face unprecedented challenges as a result of ever-increasing pressure from climate change, migration, ageing populations and resource shortages. In order to guarantee a sustainable global future, these issues demand radical new approaches to how we govern our cities.

Providing new research and thinking about cities, their governance and innovative models of planning reform, this timely and important book compares the UK with an array of international examples to examine cutting-edge experimentation and innovation in new models of governance and urban policy.

The flagship text of the Urban Policy, Planning and Built Environment series, this broad but accessible volume is ideal for students and provides an authoritative single point of reference for teaching.

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This chapter considers the pressures and drivers for change facing cities all over the world, specifically in England, and identify the range of governance approaches adopted to confront them. It situates the discussion in the subsequent chapters within wider frameworks of urban governance, including the theoretical and analytical tools which can be used to explore governance practices.

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This chapter considers how the different nations within the UK are approaching issues of city governance. This includes an exploration of how the UK Government, responsible for England, has changed its regime funding and policy for cities; and how the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are proceeding in different or similar ways.

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This chapter examines England’s sub-national policy architecture and the ways in which successive governments have attempted to address the ‘growth gap’ between London and the rest of the UK. Following a discussion of previous initiatives such as the Northern Way, the chapter considers recent developments at the regional scale including the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and recent developments in the South West. This centres on a discussion about how cities which have been long-standing competitors can collaborate and, learning from other large scale urban agglomerations, who the key actors are to make this happen.

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This chapter charts the demise of the regional agenda and the shift towards city-regional thinking which has underpinned much of the recent devolution agenda. Considering the similarities to the metropolitan architecture of the 70s and 80s, this discusses the emergence of Local Enterprise Partnerships through to Combined Authorities. This sets the scene for a broader discussion of the Devolution Deals being agreed at the city region level. In doing so, the chapter takes a broader look at how city regions function and, in particular, how districts can cooperate towards collective goals. This draws down recent examples from the emerging devolution deals, including how new metro-mayors are exercising their powers within their city regions, as well as lessons that can be learnt from the now nearly 20-year-old London Mayoral post.

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Some have argued that reforms to urban governance in the UK in recent years have “hollowed out” the local level, emphasising the levels “above” and “below” it. This reflects a broader perceived loss of focus on cities themselves, but a great deal of power and responsibility still remains at the local authority level. This chapter considers how local government autonomy has changed in recent years, within the context of a broader history of local government in the UK. It then reflects upon the “entrepreneurial turn” in local government, for some a consequence of reduced funding for local authorities, and considers recent evidence of a return to “municipal socialism” in England and beyond.

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