The official rediscovery and, indeed, celebration of a regional dimension to British – and particularly English – policy and politics is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1980s regional planning passed through a ‘dark age’ following the abolition of the economic planning councils, although there was a process of understated revival through the early 1990s (Simmons, 1999, pp. 160–3). There was fundamental government scepticism about the value of planning – particularly regional planning – which was seen as an unnecessary bureaucratic constraint on the vitality of market processes. Although the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices survived even through the lean years, the first (rather weak) shoots of officially sanctioned English regionalism were only seen in the creation of the Government Offices in the mid-1990s. Even they were initially met with suspicion by those committed to local and regional autonomy – perceived merely as regionally based branches of central government, deconcentrated, rather than decentralised government (Mawson and Spencer, 1997). Today the existence of a regional tier with the potential to shape and develop policy is increasingly simply taken for granted.