International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 44(5) pp 894-912
The European Union’s flagship Cohesion Policy faces evidence of dubious economic effectiveness and growing political and philosophical critiques of the very ideals of furthering European integration. This article examines ambitions for territorial cohesion as they have been operationalised through regional development in Wales. We argue that a potential alternative to the failed realisation of territorial cohesion lies in the principles of spatial justice. While territorial cohesion has typically emphasised the redistribution of funds to ‘lagging’ regions, spatial justice, as we define it, is premised upon enabling regions to: assert their own capacity to act and pursue positive visions of regional futures; consider the implications of space and scale for the achievement of justice; define well-being, development and the ‘good life’ in ways that reflect regional priorities. We examine three ways in which recent political discourses and policy mechanisms in Wales resonate with these ideals. We focus on attempts to: 1) envision a progressive Welsh future; 2) develop alternative spaces and scales of governance; 3) redefine and pluralise understandings of progress and well-being. The article concludes by reflecting on the practical and conceptual implications of rescaling spatial justice to regional contexts.