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Unsustainable regions? The gaping hole in the English devolution settlement continues.

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conference contribution
posted on 19.05.2009, 12:49 by John HarrisonJohn Harrison
Drawing upon a new regionalist epistemology, this paper seeks to recover a sense of (regional) political economy through a critical investigation of the development and sustainability of England’s “New Regional Policy” (NRP). The NRP has been characterised by the incremental development of a regional architecture, which has coalesced around the tripartite institutional bodies of Government Office, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), and the unelected Regional Assemblies. In the wake of the failed referendum on the North East Elected Regional Assembly proposals, the fallback to the status quo raises serious questions about the future direction of regionalisation and regionalism in England and more importantly the (un)sustainability of the NRP has been placed at the forefront of contemporary regional analysis. Most political and economic commentators were agreed that if the current model didn’t evolve into democratically elected regional structures then those institutions would just end up being very substantial quangos and become politically unsustainable. This paper argues that while in recent memory there may have been calls that England remains “the gaping hole in the devolution settlement” (Bogdanor, 1999; Hazell, 2000) it is here and now that this statement has never been more true. In the first half of this paper, I want to develop a reflective picture of how this ‘gaping hole’ actually manifests itself in the English regions. Following on from this, in the second half of the paper I want to briefly speculate on some of the potential alternative models of (quasi-)regionalisation that have been floated in recent years.


ESRC (Grant No. PTA 030-2002-01629)



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


HARRISON, J., 2005. Unsustainable regions? The gaping hole in the English devolution settlement continues. Regional Studies Association Annual Conference, Sustainable Regions – Making Regions Work, London, 24th November


Regional Studies Association / © John Harrison.


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This conference paper was presented at the Regional Studies Association Annual Conference: http://www.regional-studies-assoc.ac.uk/events/2005events.asp



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