SPATIAL PLANNING IN SCOTLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND
In other cases, reform of planning systems towards a more spatial approach has involved a more centralised approach at a sub-regional level (Needham 2005), whilst maintaining a more traditional development planning approach at the local level. Spatial planning systems are influenced by those from other countries. Effective spatial planning is characterised as part of a wider programme of change which incorporates vision, reductions of the influence of climate change, sustainable development and economic stability and growth and is able to deliver these changes at various spatial scales from national to local levels. Devolution for Scotland and Wales and the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland has led to discussion about its consequences for public policy in general and spatial planning in particular. Before devolution, much of the commentary was about the United Kingdom being an over-centralised state with perceptions about the problems that this brought, including the inability to progress local solutions to problems and to prioritise issues that are important at community level (Allmendinger and Tewdwr-Jones 2000; 2006). Since the implementation of devolution, the discussion has switched to the problems related to a fragmented state (Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger 2006; Keating 2006; Davoudi and Strange 2009), where there are differing and diverging approaches, to governance and policies as they are developed and applied at the sub-national level. Another metaphor that has been used is ‘hollowing’ out of the
state which suggests that the central state maintains its ‘headquarters’ functions but that it no longer has the power to influence what goes on within the multiple scales of governance (Jessop 2002). This is another variant on the centralised state model, although Goodwin et al. (2006) argue that in terms of devolution, hollowing out is associated with ‘filling in’ the governance spaces with alternative governance models, with new versions of ‘circumscribed power’ (Raco 2006: 326). Are these governance spaces filled with divergent or convergent policies? In practice, as this chapter will show, it is likely that the state was less centralised than generally considered prior to devolution and that since devolution the divergences have been less. Since the implementation of devolution in Scotland and Wales in 1999, it is likely that there have been fewer commentators interested in the range of solutions across the UK and their similarities and differences than there have been those interested in the implications of devolution within each of the nations. Also, there may be enough differences in priorities for policy and, in this case, spatial planning, to argue that the systems in each of the nations have diverged. This point will be discussed further below but it seems likely that these are variations within a common framework rather than variations between frameworks. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have introduced what are perceived as being differing approaches to planning. Before devolution, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already had separate approaches to planning, although all were within a system of development planning which had common and recognisable characteristics within the United Kingdom. Prior to 1999 in Scotland and Wales, the Scottish and Welsh Offices had developed their own planning policy guidance and advice. In Northern Ireland, the planning system was, and continues to be, run by the Department of the Environment. There have been proposals for planning to be returned to local government as part of the Review of Public Administration that commenced in 2002. Although since 1999 there has been considerable policy discussion and reform in each administration, it is not yet clear that these represent growing divergences of planning policy or whether they represent a policy fugue where similar policies are introduced but at different times, with differing names and in different sequences. It might be argued that this is because there are other wider and more external forces on UK planning policy which are helping to shape a common system such as globalisation, the effects of the EU, territorial cohesion policies and the focus on the economic role of spatial planning. These all have some force of argument in their favour as there still remains a consistency and coherence in planning policy between the four nations. If planning policy has been developed in a fugue, then there is case to show that the introduction of new key themes and approaches have been taken by individual nations. One nation has frequently been the lead innovator and instigator of a policy
in spatial planning which has then been taken up by the other nations. In addition, the implementation of spatial planning would also suggest more integration between other parts of the public sector, in terms of delivery, funding and governance and more coherent and joint forms of planning and delivery. For spatial planning, this shows itself most clearly in the continuing modernisation of local governance and the role of spatial planning within this as a delivery mechanism. In this chapter, the spatial planning systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are reviewed in the context of emerging governance systems and the effectiveness of current practice is considered. This is followed by a discussion of the differences and similarities between these three systems and that of England. This also provides an assessment of the likely next steps for each nation in the further development of the spatial planning approach.