Philip AllmendingerandHuw Thomas
Eight years after Mrs Thatcher’s downfall and the advent of John Major’s very different style the debate over the significance of the New Right for planning continues. Many may claim that we have moved on—New Labour is now making its own distinctive contribution. But the impact of the New Right has more than simply historical significance. For nearly twenty years planning and other areas of public policy were subject to a distinctive approach regardless of any interpretation of the significance of change. There is little doubt that New Right policy has had a major influence on the shape and direction of British politics and the trajectory of change is of interest and importance to all those involved. At another level the planning system reacted to these changes in a way that altered or diluted centrally directed proposals. How this came about tells us as much about the shape and power of local planning in the UK as it does about the ability of central government to impose its preferred policies. This is a book that says as much about the administration, institutions and processes of planning as it does about Mrs Thatcher’s attempts to change it.
In relation to Thatcherite changes Thornley (1993) has identified three distinct perspectives. The ‘continuity’ view believed that much of the ideological rhetoric would be abandoned when the government faced up to the problems of implementation (Healey 1983). The ‘consolidation’ view accepts the changes introduced by the Thatcher administrations but believes that their significance can be overstated by ignoring continuities over the post-war period as a whole (Griffiths 1986; Reade 1987). Finally, there are those who believe that the Thatcher years amounted to fundamental change with a move towards a greater reliance upon the market, centralisation of control and minimisation of discretion (Thornley 1993; Ambrose 1986; McAuslan 1980, 1982). Continuity of policy between Thatcher and Major seems largely to have been taken for granted