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Placemaking should be at centre of planning in England

Words: Laura Edgar
Community-led planning / iStock

Placemaking should be implemented in the National Planning Policy Framework (NNPF) and the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) remit should be expanded to include housing, according to the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

Its report – Unlocking Housing: Invigorating Local Communities Through Placemaking – states that this would “hard-wire greater community engagement into the development process, leading to better social outcomes”, helping to ensure that the approach to delivering housing, community development and infrastructure is integrated.

The approach to development in England needs to “radically change” and this should start with the community.

“It is only with a robust local plan, shaped by placemaking principles and supported by the local community that we will begin to build the villages, towns and cities that we all want to live in.”

To achieve this, ACE has made a number of recommendations, including that the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) remit should be expanded to include housing, and should therefore create an England-wide national spatial plan. This recommendation, says the report, is based on the success of similar approaches in Scotland and Wales.

Local authorities should develop placemaking strategies and local plans in response to the England-wide national spatial plan.

There needs to be consistency in local authorities’ approach to placemaking, therefore the report suggests that placemaking be included in the NPPF to help guarantee that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is providing “sufficient” guidance on how the placemaking objective can be met through the local plan process.

ACE believes the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) should be replaced with a new Property Sales Levy over the medium to long term. It would charge a 1 per cent tax on the sale or transfer of property worth £350,000 or less and 1.425 per cent if worth more. ACE estimates that this could raise £2.16 billion if applied in England alone. Transferred to local authorities, this could be worth £62 billion in long-term bonds. The proposal is based on a scheme currently in place in New York.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, chief executive at ACE, says: “Our proposals are mirrored on a proven model and would enable local authorities around the country to share in the gains of the property market and receive the vital funds they need to kick-start a housing revolution and invest in its supporting infrastructure, so all can benefit.

“In our view, local authorities are best placed to tackle the housing crisis and a property sales levy would ensure they have the tools at their disposal to do so. For too long we have skirted around the issue – we need to find new ways to fund the homes the country desperately needs.”

Unlocking Housing: Invigorating Local Communities Through Placemaking also recommends:

  • Local authorities should be required to develop placemaking strategies to inform local plans.
  • Design requirements should be tailored between different areas to reflect the community’s placemaking ambitions.
  • The planning portfolio holder’s role at local authorities should be expanded to include placemaking.
  • More local authorities should be encouraged to establish a development company.
  • The UK Government should devolve the ability to set planning fees to local authorities.

Ogunshakin added: “Our recommendations to implement placemaking principles into development, for meaningful engagement with local communities, and for investment in supporting health, education and transport infrastructure, would ensure a holistic approach to tackling what is surely the biggest issue facing our society today.”

To help take these proposals to the next stage, ACE is supporting the establishment of a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Building Communities. The report was launched today at the Houses of Parliament, which was also the inaugural meeting of the new Parliamentary group.

Unlocking Housing: Invigorating Local Communities Through Placemaking can be found on the Association for Consultancy and Engineering website.

Image credit | iStock