This article critically examines three interrelated contemporary themes in urban regeneration and regional development: economic development, urban sustainability and creative city planning. While these themes have distinct conceptual origins, they complement each other in practice. The question we ask in this article is: how do the embedded and contingent politics found in these approaches shape opportunities for sustainable urban regeneration? We begin the article by defining our core concepts: urban sustainability and creative planning. We then explore their convergence with economic development, both in theory and practice, and raise critical questions about the universal applicability of these formulas. We conclude with a conceptual discussion of the problems these discourses represent. In particular, we reveal how these discourses create consensus among diverse (often competing) groups of actors, and the problems associated with this form of ‘consensual urban politics’.