This article explores the responses of senior local government actors to the 2004 Wales Spatial Plan and its 2008 update. An example of the so-called 'new spatial planning' which has emerged in the movement towards regional devolution in the UK, this planning discourse foregrounds elements of relational thinking that seek to alternatively augment, destabilize and overturn orthodox administrative categories and divisions of space. Whereas spatial planners have traditionally thought and practised with and through clearly bounded scales (national, regional, local), in this century the new spatial planning is imposing relationally inscribed concepts such as 'soft space' and 'fuzzy boundaries' into the lexicon of spatial planners. Keystones in a vocabulary used to conceptualize the emergence of new spaces of more networked governance, the importance attached to both concepts in current thinking is that they seek to translate theory into policy, and policy into action. A key question arising from this, however, is how the lexicon of the new spatial planning translates, intersects, and compares with the spatial imaginations of the local government and non-government officials who have to implement and deliver the strategy. By drawing on the case study of post-devolution Wales, this article draws on interview data to critically explore the impact of the Wales Spatial Plan as a strategy indicative of the new spatial planning in action, and the implications it has had for service delivery.
Published: June 2012