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Government urged to put social justice at heart of planning

Words: Laura Edgar

A group of organisations is asking the government to add a new policy priority to the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure the needs of communities are as important as the needs of land-owners and developers.

The group is also asking the government to return to councils powers over permitted development.

Led by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) with support from academics, environmental and disability rights organisations, housing associations and community groups, the #Planning4People manifesto was launched in Parliament today by Helen Hayes MP.

#Planning4People is a coalition of organisations and individuals who share a “common belief in the value of place-making to achieve a just and sustainable future”.

The group is, the report continues, “determined” to ensure that planning shapes the “kind of places this nation deserves”.

“Planning must change so it is genuinely focused on people’s needs” – report

#Planning4People aims to bring back social town planning.

In addition to adding a new policy priority to the NPPF, which “ensures social justice and outcomes for people are just as important as the needs of land owners and developers” and giving back powers over permitted development to councils, the manifesto’s ‘asks’ include:

• Local government should adopt a strong social dimension to local plans. Policy should be shaped to prioritise place-making, and provide for the full range of hard and soft infrastructure. It should be ensured that social and affordable homes receive the highest priority.

• The private and third sectors should establish corporate commitment to a fair and inclusive planning system.

• Planning professionals and academics should transform planning education to ensure that planners have the right skills in community development.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the TCPA, said the coalition believes a “powerful and democratic” planning system can help to ensure the delivery of decent healthcare, schools, jobs, public transport and affordable homes that are accessible and have space for children to play.

“These are things that all sections of society should be able to enjoy as a matter of course, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay,” she said.

The planning system is being “undermined and devalued through significant reforms and deregulation”, with the reputation of planning declining, added Henderson.

She said this is partly because sight has been lost of progressive social values that “once lay at its core”.

“That is why we have brought together organisations and individuals who are determined to ensure that planning shapes the kind of places that this nation deserves. Planning must change so it is genuinely focused on people’s needs. Our objective is to reinvent creative social town planning which did so much to lay the foundation of a civilised Britain,” Henderson concluded.