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New RTPI research shows the benefits of public sector

Words: Sam Waddicor

New research published by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has found that the public sector plays a larger role in promoting growth than previously thought.

The research, entitled Delivering Growth? Planning And Growth Management In The South East Of England, pinpointed the key role that a strong public sector can have on encouraging growth in the private sector.

The research, conducted on behalf of the RTPI by Dr Dave Valler (Oxford Brooks University) and Professor Nick Phelps (University College London), looked at three public-private partnerships in the south-east of England – the partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), the Gatwick-Diamond Initiative (GDI), and South-central Oxfordshire/Science Val UK (SVUK).

The research concluded that there was a checklist of seven fundamental factors against which economic leadership could be judged. These were: the identity and image of an area, the clarity and detail of development strategies, the ability to prioritise development and investment, stakeholder engagement, wider political influence and resources.

Another key finding was that the partnerships with the strongest business backing weren’t necessarily the ones that fostered the most private sector growth. So although it was Gatwick Diamond that had strongest business community voice, it was PUSH that the researchers felt was most likely to deliver on its growth agenda.

Cath Ranson, president of the RTPI, said: “The importance of the public sector as a catalyst, facilitator and leader has been under-appreciated. Business brings dynamism and an entrepreneurial flair to public-private sector partnerships, but what the research indicates is that the continuity of vision and resources that local government brings is the vital ingredient. For strong private sector growth we need an efficient and effective public sector which works co-operatively with both business and neighbouring authorities.”

The report was commissioned through the RTPI’s Small Project Impact Research Scheme (SPIRe), which supports research projects with the potential to impact on planning policy and practice.