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Strategic spatial planning in a devolving governance context: A study of Sheffield City Region

Ward, Kirsten (2019) Strategic spatial planning in a devolving governance context: A study of Sheffield City Region. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

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The UK government’s decision to formally abolish Regional Assemblies and Regional Spatial Strategies in 2011 produced a strategic planning ‘gap’ in the English planning system. The government concurrently embarked on a ‘devolution’ agenda that led to the formation of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities in city regions across England. These legislative and governance changes created a complex, evolving network of new governance spaces through which a plurality of voluntary strategic planning practices emerged, underpinned by a weakly-defined and under-resourced ‘Duty to Cooperate’. This research contributes enhanced understanding of how strategic spatial planning is approached in this devolving governance context, including the barriers to it, by presenting a detailed ethnographic study of Sheffield City Region; an area that currently lacks a strong, sub-regional planning narrative. Using qualitative research methods and a conceptual framework derived from historical and constructivist institutionalism, the research investigates how practices of strategic planning are shaped within this changing legislative, governance and territorial context. In Sheffield City Region, institutionalised structures created an environment that promoted informal cross-boundary collaborative practices, whilst resisting a formalised approach to strategic spatial plan-making. Although lacking the power and resources to implement it, planning officers promoted an ‘idealised’ version of strategic plan-making, derived from their historically embedded strategic spatial planning experiences. Elected members’ resistance of this approach was reinforced by ‘post-political’ forms of governance that developed within the Combined Authority, and increased austerity that promoted competition between local authorities. A combination of informal, formal and ‘in between’ governance spaces (and the interface between them) played an important role in enabling and constraining practices of strategic spatial planning and decision-making. The research highlights how Sheffield City Region’s multiple, overlapping spatial geographies, when ‘hardened’ as political territories, acquired a structuring power that further constrained strategic spatial planning at the city region scale.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: strategic spatial planning; governance; devolution; city regions
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Urban Studies and Planning (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.803669
Depositing User: Kirsten Ward
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2020 15:28
Last Modified: 01 May 2020 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26522

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