In contrast with prevailing international trends and the European Union orthodoxy, the English regional map, a prominent feature of strategic development policy during 2000–2010, has since been expunged. This paper examines ‘functional’ spatial coalitions and their choice as the intended surrogates for formal regions. Informed by a mixed-method research methodology, the paper challenges the claim that this mosaic of voluntaristic public-private coalitions represents plausible realizations of functional regions. Indeed, the research reveals a noteworthy correlation with geographical antecedents, emphasizing the importance of the legacy of past sub-national forms of governance maintained by some enduring spatial coalitions. Flowing from this analysis, the implications for policy are discussed.