The planning systems of the United Kingdom have been subject to considerable review and reform over recent years. The arrival of a Labour government in 1997 brought the promise of political devolution to the various nations of the union, a promise that was quickly fulfi lled. Since the late 1990s, England, Wales and Scotland – and also Northern Ireland – have followed their own trajectories, albeit from the common base of post-war ‘comprehensive’ planning. The different countries – perhaps with the exception of England, which does not as yet have its own political institutions

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– have sought to bend planning towards their own particular circumstances and needs, creating a new territorialisation of the system and of governance. Over this same period, the nomenclature of planning has also evolved. The idea of ‘town and country’ planning has been replaced with the concept of ‘spatial’ planning which, as we shall see in later chapters, is thought to be more an integral part of ‘spatial governance’ than a tool of local government, used to police land-use change. Indeed, in a recent contribution to discourse on the nature of spatial planning, Nadin (2007: 43) argues that the concept expresses an ambition to ‘put planning at the centre of the spatial development process, not just as a regulator of land and property uses, but as a proactive and strategic coordinator of all policy and actions that infl uence spatial development; and to do this in the interests of more sustainable development’. Spatial planning is more ‘integrated’, ‘joined-up’, and concerned with coordinated service delivery: it connects places and does away with the old divisions. Being more ‘spatial’, it seeks to be part of governance processes – perhaps across ‘city-regions’ – that are less concerned with labels such as ‘town’ and ‘country’, or ‘rural’ and ‘urban’, and which instead seek spatially integrated solutions. However, despite the new vocabulary, the idea of town and country planning survives (DCLG, 2007a: 97) as do debates over the effi ciency of the system and the need for improvement (Nadin, 2007). It is also acknowledged that ‘rural’ areas, although integral parts of wider territories, retain their own specifi c challenges which are economic, social and environmental in nature.