Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Strategic Spatial Planning under Regime Governance and Localism: Experiences from the North West of England

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Strategic Spatial Planning under Regime Governance and Localism: Experiences from the North West of England

Article excerpt

Introduction: strategic spatial planning and its governance

Strategic (spatial) planning is arguably the most comprehensive activity aimed to achieve sustainable development. It has been previously defined as exhibiting various characteristics (see Sartorio, 2005; Mazza, 2013), mainly reflecting diverse views on its strategic component which was originally imported from business and military literature (Ziafati Bafarasat, 2015). The spatial element is, however, less contested and has been defined as integrating various activities and investments into their territorial mould (Haughton et al., 2010). Strategic spatial planning concerns major issues of spatial development (Faludi, 2000) and is thus usually a supra-local activity (Spaans, 2007). The governance context of strategic spatial planning is, however, varied and, within a UK context and beyond, has at different times arguably involved different concepts around 'old' regionalism, 'new' regionalism, regime governance and localism.

'Old' regionalism - which is rooted in a comprehensive approach to regionalism in the 1960s and 1970s covering issues as wide as affordable housing and externalities of development competition (Frisken and Norris, 2001; Basolo, 2003; Heinelt and Zimmermann, 2011) - advocates the existence of a general purpose regional organisation, to be achieved either through the consolidation of local governments or by the establishment of an additional tier of government (Kübler and Heinelt, 2005; Hamilton, 2013; Ziafati Bafarasat, 2016a). In the USA, Britain and some other developed nations in which the regional level involves marked fragmentation in socio-economic and political terms, and where higher-level authorities are unwilling to devolve power, regional governments are less common; Portland's Metro and the Metropolitan Council for Minneapolis-St Paul in the USA, and the Greater London Authority in Britain are among such few examples (Searle and Bunker, 2010; Wannop, 2013). In Italy, Spain and some parts of Germany, however, regions constitute a government tier (Giordano and Roller, 2003; Fürst, 2005).

In the 1990s, in line with the debate on the shift from 'government' to 'governance', the transition from old regionalism to new regionalism started (Kübler and Schwab, 2007). 'New' regionalism usually promotes a voluntary association involving local authorities, governmental agencies and private and third-sector organisations to plan for and meet region-wide interests (Visser, 2004; Hamilton, 2013). Regional Assemblies for English regions, technically called 'regional planning bodies', which comprised 70 per cent local authority members and 30 per cent regional representatives from the voluntary and business sectors, were created on track of former regional planning conferences with a new regionalist agenda, but, from 2004, they were put in charge of preparing statutory Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) with which local authorities' Development Plan Documents, including Core Strategies, were required to be in conformity (Tomaney and Ward, 2000; Haughton and Counsell, 2004; ODPM, 2004; Baker and Wong, 2013; Swain et al., 2013). This system was abolished in 2010 by a newly elected Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. The German system below the Länder level involves voluntary associations in some city regions (see Gualini, 2004; Heidenreich, 2005; Benz and Meincke, 2006) while this is the primary system of governing city regions in the USA, where localism does not work (Norris, 2001).

The third system, which is based on regime theory, suggests that, due to an increasingly cross-boundary nature of corporate interests, business-led associations usually drive collaboration between more hesitant local governments and are thus well-placed to steer supra-local planning (see Leo, 1998; Mossberger and Stoker, 2001; Hamilton, 2002; 2004; Gainsborough, 2003). Localism involves an incremental, bottom-up system of addressing regional planning objectives whose linchpin is bilateral cooperation between local governments (Crowe, 2011; Hopkin and Atkinson, 2011; Lowndes and Pratchett, 2012; Gallent et al. …

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