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Conference keynote speaker                             Regional Studies Association Plenary

Prof Mike Raco

Professor of Urban Governance and Development

Bartlett School of Planning

University College London

Privatisation, Managerialism, and the Changing Politics of Sustainability Planning in London: Lessons From the Planning of the London Olympics


This paper draws on the example of the London Olympics 2012, and wider changes in sustainability planning in the city, to explore the emergence of a new ‘realistic’, private sector-led governance model. It argues that a new policy orthodoxy has emerged based on a set of normative claims that see sustainability as an outcome of pragmatic and non-ideological forms of managerial intervention. Advocates of this pragmatic approach claim that it converts the lofty ideals and aspirations of sustainability visions into tangible, verifiable, and output-based forms of delivery. The Olympics is presented as a case in point. Critics, however, highlight its wider impacts on strategic planning capacities and democratic accountability. For if future models of governance are to be dominated by private experts working on bounded, contract-specific projects, then the character of governance changes. State bodies become responsive to contractual obligations rather than rapidly changing democratic demands. Their pragmatic role is to incentivise private investment by drawing up contracts that insulate private investors from the ‘risks’ posed by democratic demands and short term political concerns. In short, the priority for this new politics is to take the politics out of sustainability planning altogether in order to achieve better outcomes. The discussion examines the governance arrangements that were put in place for the Games and the ways in which sustainability objectives were defined, institutionalised, and mobilised by hybrid public and private actors. It sets this within a wider context of welfare reform in London and the UK in which private companies now play an expanding role in governing, as well as implementing, ‘state’ projects. The paper concludes by examining the extent to which a new London Model of governance is emerging and its implications for thinking about sustainability planning both in the city and beyond.



Prof David Bailey

Professor of Industrial Strategy

Aston Business School

Aston University

'Place-based' policy approaches and the UK government's Localism Agenda



This paper examines the implications of a place-based economic strategy in the context of the UK Coalition government’s framework for achieving local growth and the creation of Local Economic Partnerships in England. It draws on the international literature to outline the basic foundations of place-based policy approaches. It explores two key features, particularly as they relate to governance institutions and to the role of knowledge. After examining key concepts in the place-based policy literature, such as ‘communities of interest’ and ‘capital city’ and ‘local elites’, it shows how they might be interpreted in an English policy context. The paper then discusses a place-based approach towards an understanding of the role of knowledge, linked to debates around ‘smart specialisation’. In doing so, it shows why there is an important ‘missing space’ in local growth between the ‘national’ and the ‘local’ and how that space might be filled through appropriate governance institutions and policy responses. Overall, the paper outlines what a place-based approach might mean in particular for Central Government, in changing its approach towards sub-national places and for local places, in seeking to realise their own potential. Furthermore, it outlines what the ‘missing space’ is and how it might be filled, and therefore what a place-based sub-national economic strategy might address.

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