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RTPI report says constant policy reforms are undermining the planning system

Published: Thursday, 18th August 2016

Deep budget cuts and continual changes in planning policy have stripped public sector planners of the powers and resources to perform leadership and coordinating roles, according to report…

Nearly three-quarters of planners believe “constant changes” to the English planning system are proving a hindrance to the delivery of better places.

That’s the headline finding of a poll carried out by the Royal Town Planning Institute and highlighted in a new report from the organisation.

The report warned that deep budget cuts and continual changes in planning policy over the last 30 years have stripped public sector planners of the powers and resources to perform leadership and coordinating roles.

It argued that strategic leadership from local authority planners to spur public sector-led development was urgently needed at a time when private developers are vulnerable from post-Brexit uncertainty.

The report said the planning reforms of the last decade had resulted in a system that was more complicated and more uncertain and which had a reduced ability to ensure that development was well-planned and connected to transport and facilities. The legacy was also a narrower range and number of affordable housing to rent or buy.

RTPI president Phil Williams said: “For too long planning has been relegated to a reactive, bureaucratic function, instead of being able to plan strategically to drive development, jobs and growth.

“We are hearing from our members a clear sense that deep budget cuts and constant changes have hindered their ability to operate strategically and perform a leadership role.”

Based on case studies across England, the report argued that stronger public sector leadership could make more land available through land assembly, de-risk sites (for example by clearing up contamination), and draw in more private investment.

 The report urged:

  • Stronger public sector-led management of land supply
  • A stronger private sector role in development partnerships (drawing on the lessons from Urban Regeneration Companies, Urban Development Corporations, and Enterprise Zones)
  • Better resourced planning departments and a more stable planning system that provides greater certainty for developers and communities
  • Better integration of planning activity with all kinds of infrastructure provision.

View the press release

Roger Milne