Post‐Thatcherite Urban Planning and Politics: a Major Change?


The political ideology driving urban statutory planning in the United Kingdom has held a central place within planning literature during the 1980s and 1990s. The distinctiveness of leadership style and political ideology associated with the Thatcher governments have been widely recognized both in practice and academia. However, the distinctiveness of political ideology to determine the form and status of statutory urban planning since John Major acceded to the prime ministership in 1990 has not been assessed so markedly. Questions emerge on whether Thatcherite ideology is continuing in the 1990s within the realm of planning and environment, of whether a watered down version of New Right policies are being implemented, or whether central government policies towards planning over the last six years marked a change in ideological direction. This paper examines statutory planning during the Major years with reference to the ideological components of Thatcherism. From this assessment, a comparative analysis is undertaken of both political administrations. The paper concludes by finding that although elements of Thatcherite ideology are continuing, there have been initiatives that move away from the primacy of the market. However, these do not form any ‘big theory’: the differences between Thatcher and Major are more related to style than substance. Thatcherism is continuing but in a neo‐Thatcherite way.