This paper examines the supposed shift from government to governance in the context of land‐use planning in England and indicates some of the problems which surround increased regional autonomy in governmental systems. It is argued that decision‐making processes around land use, especially when they concern conflicts between development and environmental protection, are not easily rendered into the flexible arrangements deemed characteristic of governance. Two case studies in the housing and minerals sectors – presented to illustrate this general argument – show the existence of strong ‘strategic lines’ which tend to subsume local representations and limit the formation of partnerships. In both cases, the strategic line comes dressed in the language of technical (numerical) forecasts and projections which raises problems for any local opposition to the thrust of the strategy. In conclusion it is argued that although some recasting of the planning regime in each sector is underway this has only served to highlight continuing problems in linking strategy and locality, especially in cases of conflict around land use, which regional governance may not easily alleviate.