Global Course

Spatial Planning & Institutional Design

Lecture 5

The reshaping of Metropolitan Governance and

Planning in England


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Click here to access the Powerpoint presentation Lecture 5.


This lecture provides some context for the English situation before discussing the recent reshaping of sub-regional governance. Planning has traditionally assumed a need for nested spatial scales: the neighbourhood, the city, the region and the nation as a means of underpinning strategic decisions about infrastructure, economic investment and place management.

Geographers (such as Anssi Paasi, 2020) have, however, pointed to the socially constructed nature of scale and to the casting of a range of governance geographies by competing political agendas and programmes. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the English situation. A declared shift to ‘localism’ after 2010 triggered a rejection of regions as appropriate scales for organising spatial governance and the negotiation of a patchwork of new constituencies. Desires for political control and private sector influence have featured large in the design of these new geographies, which have coincided with substantial cuts to funding for local authorities led by democratically elected councils.

More recently, ‘Levelling Up’ has replaced localism as the basis on which to advance ‘devolution deals’ across the country but these have yet to fully materialise. The current picture therefore remains one of enormous complexity, which presents challenges for those seeking strategic, long term schemes to upgrade infrastructure and align investment with land use planning. The lecture reviews the scale of these challenges and opens up a debate on the likely impact of recent announcements of further reform.

Dr David Webb (email:

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Main reading for this lecture:

Cullingworth B., Nadin, V., Hart, T., Davoudi, S., Pendlebury, J., Vigar, G., Webb, T., & Townshend, T. (2014) Town and Country Planning in the UK (15th edition) London: Routledge. Only chapter 4.

Suggested reading: 

John Harrison, Daniel Galland & Mark Tewdwr Jones (2021) Regional planning is dead: long live planning regional futures, Regional Studies, 55:1, 6-18


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