Planning for growth in Scottish city-regions: ‘neoliberal spatial governance’?

O'Sullivan, Michael (2018) Planning for growth in Scottish city-regions: ‘neoliberal spatial governance’? PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The PhD is driven by a need to analyse what Scottish planning has come to represent in practice. It does this through a focus on how Scottish planning reform (Planning etc. Scotland Act, 2006) has been used to respond to the key public policy issues of achieving ‘sustainable growth’ and particularly planning for housing in growth- pressured city-regions.

In England, Allmendinger’s (2016) recent critical consideration of the current state of planning despondently sees ‘neoliberal spatial governance’ where planning is focussed on ‘facilitating growth,’ through ‘post political’ process and driven by ‘narrow sectional interests’. This thesis analyses the extent to which such critique is a relevant way of understanding Scottish planning and how planning has come to be criticised from some perspectives as a tool for rolling out growth, while for others planning is still perceived as a drag on growth.

It does this by analysing planning practice in two city regions – Aberdeen and Edinburgh - which have faced pressures for growth, particularly housing growth. Both have used the reformed Scottish planning system to deal with these pressures. In Aberdeen, it reveals why an ambitious growth agenda easily emerged, where planning actors utilised the reformed Scottish planning system to advocate an ‘ambitious strategy’. In Edinburgh, it reveals why, despite utilising the same planning system, a more complex and conflictual relationship around planning and housing growth has remained in place, as the city-region struggled to realise a spatial strategy that adapts to existing local political tensions. In each case the role of global and local structuring economic conditions are foregrounded.

This qualitative comparative case study analyses the operation of Scottish planning in the period (2007-2016) in two growth-pressured Scottish city-regions. It involves 48 interviews conducted in the period 2013-2015 with public sector officers, councillors, developer interests and community and special interest groups and the analysis of documents associated with planning strategies. It has been conducted by a planner who has worked ‘in the field’ in the public and private sectors in both cases.

It applies a broadly Gramscian analysis, utilising a Strategic Relational Approach, where planning actors pursue differing agendas and attempt to address wider and competing public policy concerns while operating within evolving structural conditions. It demonstrates the ways in which planning is a means by which particular interests can formalise their ambitions for growth but can equally be used to constrain and defer decisions around growth. However, both cases reveal planning as a form of ‘neoliberal spatial governance’ where the contradictions of current state-market relations mean Scottish planning is unlikely to meet its complex objective of delivering ‘sustainable economic growth’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Post-political, neoliberalism, Scotland, spatial planning, housing.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Adams, Professor David and Kamete, Dr. Amini
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Michael O'Sullivan
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-31018
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2018 08:59
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2023 16:39

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