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Studies in Applied Geography and Spatial Analysis

Addressing Real World Issues

Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes

This timely and fascinating book illustrates how applied geography can contribute in a multitude of ways to assist policy processes, evaluate public programs, enhance business decisions, and contribute to formulating solutions for community-level problems.
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Chapter 12: West Midlands (UK) regional planning (1999–2012), functioning economic geography and the E3I belt: coping with uncomfortable truths

Michael Taylor and John R. Bryson


Under the previous New Labour government (1997–2010) in the United Kingdom (UK), regional planning in England was devolved to the country’s regions. Each region established two planning bodies: Regional Assemblies, consisting of delegated local government politicians, were responsible for the development of regional spatial strategies (RSS); and unelected Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were responsible for the development and implementation of Regional Economic Strategies (RES). Both planning bodies were closed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government that came into power in May 2010. This chapter explores the interplay between research and economic policy formulation in the West Midlands region of the UK. It is one of England’s problem regions – an old industrial area with an enterprise deficit, an innovation deficit and skills deficit (Bryson et al., 1996; Bryson et al., 2008a, 2008b; OECD, 2004; Taylor and Bryson, 2008; West Midland Group, 1948), with high unemployment and during 2008–12 hit savagely by recession (AWM, 2011) (Figure 12.1). Parts of the West Midlands are designated by the European Commission as Objective 2 which highlights that the region contains places that are experiencing structural difficulties. At the regional scale RDAs had been charged by the former national Labour government that had created them with developing strategic policy frameworks to guide their regional economies into an increasingly uncertain future, maintaining and enhancing the prosperity of the regions and the quality of life within their constituent communities. The RDAs were professionally staffed agencies or quangos that worked alongside the Regional Assemblies made up of elected local officials.

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