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Planning key to growth of tech sector, says RTPI

Planning should be used by cities to attract the technology and advanced manufacturing (AM) sectors while also avoiding the creation of “tech ghettos”, say the authors of an RTPI report.

Entitled Planning For The Growth Of Technology And Advanced Manufacturing, the policy paper is part of a series focused on the policy needs of spatial planning in the UK, Ireland and internationally.

Citing growing concern that the presence of technology and AM sectors can lead to a two-speed economy and economic segregation, report authors stress that policies and incentives to attract these sectors should be balanced by plans to ensure that their growth is “beneficial to the whole city or region”.

The report further suggests that measures such as Planning Obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy, while useful in capturing some infrastructural spillover benefits to the local community, are not enough on their own. More should be done to secure social benefits through other means, which devolved authorities should have power to influence or implement.

One option, described by report authors as a “quick win”, would be the creation of chief technology officer positions across local government to act as the main industry contact; report authors cite Dublin’s Commissioner for Startups as an example. In areas where technology and AM economies are taking off, there is often no point of contact for the industries to coordinate their growth with the local economy, says the report.

“City planners are uniquely placed to mediate and bring together the conditions that are attractive to technology and AM firms,” said the RTPI’s head of policy Richard Blyth. “Highly skilled employees… prefer a more social lifestyle and proximity to workplace, broadband connectivity, good transport, physical compactness.”

Blyth cited the success of places like Horsham, Temple Quarter in Bristol, and Dublin’s Docklands as “proof that innovative hubs don’t just thrive by chance, they are also frequently the result of good planning”.

But simply attracting and spurring economic growth in these industries is not enough.

Said Blyth: “Industry and local authorities must also consider how to tackle problems like inflated prices, displacement of local residents and accelerating gap between the rich and poor that an exponential development of these sectors may bring. Planning has a crucial role in ensuring that growth is sustainable and benefits more people in the long run.”

The full policy paper can be found here