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Developers need certainty from local authorities, say planning experts

Words: Laura Edgar

Strategic leadership from local authority planners to spur public sector-led investment is urgently needed at a time when private developers are vulnerable from post-Brexit uncertainty, says the RTPI.

Yet results from a survey of planners in England, conducted by the institute, suggest that 73 per cent of those who responded believe constant change to the planning system has reduced their ability to deliver good places.

In addition, 53 per cent think that changes have hindered housing development and nearly 70 per cent say they are less able to deliver the benefits of planning compared with 10 years ago.

The survey forms part of a new report by the RTPI, Delivering the value of planning. It warns that deep budget cuts and continual changes in planning policy over the past 30 years have stripped public sector planners of the powers and resources to perform leadership and coordinating roles.

The report says the planning system in England is now more complicated and uncertain, with a reduced ability to ensure that development is well-planned and connected to transport and facilities. There is also a narrower range of affordable housing to rent and buy.

Phil Williams, RTPI president, says: “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.”

Williams said it is “crucial” that council planning teams are properly resourced so that “planners can operate strategically”.

“We want to see closer integration of planning activities with councils’ economic development and devolved areas of responsibilities to guide private sector investment and keep up the momentum for building.

“It is also vital that local authorities work more closely with each other and the private sector to address land supply issues and provide the certainty the market needs.”

Based on case studies across England, the report says stronger public sector leadership can make more land available through land assembly, de-risk sites and draw in more private investment.

The report can be found here (pdf).

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