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  • Author or Editor: John Sturzaker x
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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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The notion, and practice, of devolving power to communities is now widespread, and since 2010 has been a particularly important element of the reforms to urban governance instituted by successive UK Governments. There has been a great deal of entirely justifiable scepticism about this, but recent evidence suggests that there may be scope for some of the reforms, specifically new “Neighbourhood Plans”, to play a progressive and emancipatory role in cities. This chapter reviews the contested history of governance at the community scale, considering both the formal devolution of power and more radical community-led approaches. It contrasts a predominantly top-down approach in England with seemingly more genuine attempts at devolution elsewhere, and introduces empirical data on Neighbourhood Plans in urban areas.

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This chapter summarises and synthesises the preceding chapters, discussing a series of themes which have emerged. The first is the interaction between the levels of devolution which have been the focus of each chapter, reflecting upon overlaps between them and cumulative impacts of changes to different levels of governance. The second is that Brexit has dominated UK governance to an unhealthy degree, casting a long shadow over other issues, including localism. The third is the impact of ‘austerity’ and the reductions in central and local state spending consequent on it, and the fourth follows – that poorer people are consistently losing out from every round and type of reform. Our conclusion is, therefore, that localism as it has been instantiated in the UK has overall been a regressive force, but that this need not necessarily be the case – whilst we identify few lessons for other places, there is scope to work within and around formal governance frameworks to have a more positive impact.

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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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