Strategic leadership and planning in a localist agenda: lessons from the north west of England

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Following the 2010 election, the new Coalition government in the UK abolished the English regional (planning and development) institutions and their strategies, establishing business-led bodies of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) at the city regional scale, and a cross-local authority ‘Duty-to- Cooperate’ to feed in informal strategies and deliver projects around cross-boundary issues such as housing, transport, the environment, and strategic sites. Given the non-statutory status of the LEPs and the loose framework for the Duty to Cooperate, this paper draws on empirical case study research undertaken by the authors in three city-regions of North West England to investigate whether strategic spatial priorities can be effectively planned and delivered under this highly neo-liberalised and localised system. In other words, it asks whether strategic thinking can still take place in a weak strategic / sub-regional environment. In examining the inclination and ability of LEPs for spatial governance, we identified three typologies of their roles in the city-regions studied: ‘expedient leader’, ‘ambitious mediator’, and ‘political and functional rival’. These findings, along with those of the Duty-to-Cooperate in cross-local consensus building and delivery, result in lessons about building corporatist institutions of strategic governance as well as the institutional and legislative contexts of ‘bottom-up’ strategic planning.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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