Call for articles - Levelling Up/Regional Inequality

Levelling Up: Challenges and Opportunities in Addressing Regional Inequality

Guest Editor: Joe Docherty, Managing Director, Bede Homes, and Chair and Non Executive Director of organisations involved in economic development and community regeneration

Submission Deadline: 24th January 2024

Levelling Up is a flagship policy of the UK Government, who published a Levelling Up White Paper in February 2022. The policy divides opinion between those who believe that it is a cornerstone economic policy of the UK government and forms a key plank of their promise to the electorate and the long term development of the UK (or rather English) economy and those who view it as an effective political slogan but one without meaningful economic rationale or policy levers underpinning it.

Regional inequality is common to many developed economies, including the United States and a number of other European countries. The areas which prospered as a result of the Industrial Revolution have often been left in a vulnerable position as developed economies have moved away from extraction and manufacturing heavy industry to more agile modern high value manufacturing and service-based economies. Inequality is also prevalent in many emerging market economies, despite rapid increases in aggregate gross domestic income over the past few years.

The transition from heavy industry has left many urban areas, often clustered in the same geographic regions of developed economies, in a state of physical, economic and social decline. While this is not a new phenomenon and has been a factor in government policy since at least the 1930s in some developed economies, it has become more overt in recent years as inequality has become a key political issue.

Areas of economic underperformance are long understood to be characterised by high and long-term unemployment or – more recently – economic inactivity and a low / poor skills base which impacts regional labour markets. Low levels of new business formation and retention rates, inadequate access to capital, low levels of innovation and poor rates of technology transfer, low R&D, poor health and inadequate housing are all hallmarks of the areas which it is intended to level up.

Areas of structural economic underperformance therefore have few of the elements of rapid economic change in place, and suffer as a consequence from a decline in the social and economic fabric to the extent that whole communities become excluded from economic activity and suffer multiple economic deprivation.

Special Issue Objectives and Call for Papers

The aim of this Special Issue of Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal is to explore the historic challenges presented by Levelling Up and how policy makers and practitioners can successfully meet the ambition of the policy.  Its objectives include:

To assess how devolved decision making can help deliver the Levelling Up agenda. What issues does this raise in a highly centralised country and what lessons can be learned elsewhere? In England there has been an emergence of directly elected Mayors and what impact could these local players have on the delivery of policies to reduce regional inequality?

Related to this is to what extent should national or state government be restricted to establishing overarching outcomes (eg GDP per head) and leave individual regions or clusters to design their own pathways to success?

To what extent do infrastructure investment and tax incentives – both levers which national governments find easier to pull - help deliver a step change in areas of economic underperformance and what are the conditions / criteria to do so successfully?

To what extent are changing working patterns and even the impact of emerging technologies / industries such as low / zero carbon and AI going to have on areas that have historically been seen as being geographically economically peripheral?

What are the interventions in the skills market for existing and future workforce members in areas of economic underperformance and what should be the appropriate policy response?

To what extent are larger urban centres – historically seen as key economic drivers – part of the future and what impact should levelling up have on place?

The overall aim of the government is to boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by 2030. Is this the right time frame for what may require whole system reform, a reform of the type which history may suggest has been difficult or at times impossible to shift? How does a fiercely bipartisan democracy develop a strategy on a horizon that may exceed the democratic mandate of any single party or government. 

Papers are, therefore, invited that help to address one or more of these objectives and other key challenges facing economic policy makers and regeneration professionals.

The following types of articles will be considered for publication:

Practice Articles: Thought pieces, briefings, case studies and other contributions written by professionals working in regeneration and economic development. Case studies should address the following questions: What has worked? Why has it worked? What lessons were learned? How could it be done elsewhere?

Research Papers: Contributions which present new models, theories and empirical research in urban regeneration and renewal on levelling up and regional inequality should have clear implications for regeneration and economic development policy makers / professionals.

Practice articles should be 2000 – 5000 words in length and research papers up to 6000 words.

All submissions will be peer-reviewed to ensure that they are of direct, practical relevance to those working in the field.

The copy deadline for this special issue is 24th January 2024.

Manuscript submissions and enquiries should be submitted to the Publisher, Julie Kerry.  Further, more specific guidance for authors on format and style can be found at:

Questions about this issue and proposals for papers should be directed to the Guest-Editor: Joe Docherty, as well as the Publisher, Julie Kerry at