A decision was taken to establish the Regional Studies Association, and a Steering Committee was formed
The British Group of ICRPD was dissolved, and the inaugural meeting of the Association was held on 9th April. The first conference, entitled Regional Planning in Britain, followed on 9th October, 1965 succeeded in bringing together a mix of academics from varied disciplines along with those from policy and practice.
The first issue of the Newsletter was sent to members, and a programme of five meeting took place in London. Regional branches were formed in Scotland, Yorkshire and Humberside, and East Anglia.
One of the first goals of the Steering Committee was to establish a quality, peer reviewed publication to disseminate regional research. Following successful negotiations with Pergamon Press, Regional Studies was launched in May 1967 under the editorship of Peter Hall – a major landmark in the Association’s development as a learned society.
As the Association adapted to this changing environment, it proclaimed a continued need for its work when, in 1973, Britain entered the European Economic Community (EEC). However, with the return to power of Wilson’s Labour party in 1974, a range of institutional innovations, such as the National Enterprise Board, were introduced as the national economy was reconfigured. The result was a 60% reduction in regional policy expenditure between 1975 and 1980. Regional plans and studies continued to be produced, but their recommendations did not receive the same commitment from the government.
The first truly non-UK branch was established in the Republic of Ireland.
As the Association attempted to link theory and practice in regional policy and planning, a common discussion held was whether it should, or could, exert policy influence. To a degree, the extent to which the Association could seek political influence was resolved when, in 1969, it became a registered charity: under the Charities Act (1960) it could not overtly lobby. However, members continued to press the Association to use its activities for influence, leading the Executive Committee to agree that the Association could make public statements, but should avoid becoming a ‘pressure-group for particular strategic and political interpretations of regional planning’. Instead, the Association continued to provide a forum for non-partisan consideration of government consultations and policies.
At the close of the 1970s, the Association’s conference entitled ‘The Death of Regional Policy’ held in Glasgow seemed prophetic. Shortly afterwards, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative administration won the 1979 general election and regional economic planning was challenged like never before as power was drawn to the centre.
After Peter Hall, the editorship of Regional Studies was passed on to John B. Goddard and, owing to printing and distribution delays, the journal moved to another publisher. Cambridge University Press began publishing Regional Studies in 1982 and the benefits were immediately apparent: it was published on time, with an improved appearance and a commitment to promoting the journal in North America.
In early 1982, the Association convened a panel of experts to examine the changing regional problem. The resulting Inquiry into Regional Problems in the United Kingdom re-imagined what regional intervention should look like in the face of government antipathy, competing inner urban problems, and an economic recovery that would favour some parts of the country more than others. The Report of An Inquiry into Regional Problems in the United Kingdom was published subsequent to an examination, by the Association, of the changing regional problem.
The Report of An Inquiry into Regional Problems in the United Kingdom was published subsequent to an examination, by the Association, of the changing regional problem.
In December 1986, the Association appointed a youthful graduate, Sally Hardy (née Parkinson), to the role of Executive Secretary. From her arrival, Hardy’s impact was noticeable as she combined a civil-service style of management with a desire for the Association to become more ambitious and efficient.
With opposition politicians canvassing for new policy ideas, the Association decided to take the initiative and reconvened its Inquiry in to the UK’s regional problems. Its findings were published in 1992 as Regional Development in the 1990s:
In the 1990s, editorship of the journal changed hands several times and heralded by a further change in the cover design, it moved to a new publisher – namely, Carfax, a small, specialist journal publisher. The number of issues increased to seven in 1992, eight in 1993, and nine issues in 1997. And to address concerns from members that policy was being underrepresented, from 1993 a section in each volume of the journal was dedicated to ‘Debates and Reviews’. Like the ‘Policy Review’ section introduced in 1982, it allowed shorter papers to appear in a refereed journal. Further, its content was linked to the Newsletter which, in February 1993, was renamed Regions.
At a Special General Meeting in December 2000, a resolution was passed to dissolve the unincorporated charity and reform as a charitable company. The new entity came into being on 1 January 2001 and the Association’s assets were transferred.
In 2005, the Association reached its fortieth anniversary. The occasion was marked with a celebratory event at the House of Commons on 14th September, 2006.
In 2012, the scale of the Association’s events changed as the International Conference was converted into a European Conference held in Delft, the Netherlands, with an additional event named the Global Conference held in Beijing,
By 1997, the Association’s trajectory towards internationalisation was firmly established; the ERRN was disbanded in 1998 and its work was incorporated into the Association’s main activities. The Association also made concerted efforts to internationalise its Board; in April 2012, representation came from South Africa, Australia, Austria, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, the USA and Wales.
In 2015, the Association reached its fiftieth anniversary. The occasion was marked with a celebratory event at the House of Commons.
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