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Raynsford calls for a people-centred planning system

Words: Laura Edgar
Community-led planning / iStock

Former housing minister Nick Raynsford has said deregulation is leading to poor-quality outcomes for people as he publishes the interim findings for his review of the planning system.

Raynsford launched the interim findings in the House of Lords today (15 May).

The review was established last summer to answer a variety of questions, including whether there is too much planning or too little, and to outline a new planning system that could “command the confidence of the public and help deliver the development the nation needs”, he writes in the executive summary.

Regional meetings, round tables, more than 50 interviews and received written evidence “illustrate a planning system which has undergone a bewildering rate of change and is now fragmented and confusing”.

The planning system is at a “historically low ebb”, and because of deregulation, it is “less effective than at any time in the post-war era”.

Raynsford cites permitted development as being a particular issue preventing the delivery of affordable housing – something both the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Association for Public Service Excellence have also pointed to recently.

He said the legal framework underpinning the planning system has become “more complex and confused”, with “fragmented legislation shaping different aspects of local and national planning and little coordination between the two”.

The interim report makes a number of “propositions” for the planning system, including:

  • Purpose of planning: The lack of any clear, overarching legal purpose for the planning system has led to confusion about what planning is for. The report suggests creating a “meaningful” objective focused on the delivery of sustainable development. The purpose of the planning system is to positively promote the spatial organisation of land in order to achieve long-term sustainable development. In the Planning Acts, ‘sustainable development’ means managing the use, development and protection of land, the built environment and natural resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being while sustaining the potential of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • A powerful, people-centred planning system: The planning system must be capable of dealing with the complex interrelationship between people and their environments. Planning requires sufficient regulatory powers to deal with problems where they are found. These must be comprehensive and should relate to the use and development of all land and property. This requires both the restoration of development management powers over permitted development rights and the creation, for the first time, of a genuinely plan-led system that can deliver coordination and certainty to developers and communities.
  • A fairer way to share land values: The regulation of land generates substantial betterment values, created by the actions of public authorities but largely accruing as windfall gains to landowners. A new planning system should provide a more effective and fairer way of sharing land values, and the review is exploring three related options:

      - measures specific to large-scale growth conducted by development corporations and local planning authorities;

      - a reformed Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy process; and

      - an element of betterment taxation, as part of capital gains tax, which should be directed towards regeneration in low-demand areas.

Raysnford said: “The planning system is no longer capable of shaping the places we need to secure people’s long-term health and well-being. We need a new approach with people at the heart of decisions and system which meet the growing challenges of housing affordability climate change and economic transformation.”

John Acres, president at the RTPI, said: “The report rightly recognises that planners in England are working in a less than optimal system – too complex, underfunded and struggling with economic forces outside its control. The RTPI welcomes the opportunity to take a thorough look at things and feed in our ideas on how to improve the system.

“But ultimately we should not pretend that there is a foolproof planning system, and starting afresh does no one any good. That is why the success of UK planners needs to be celebrated more and that investing in the people who are in the front line shaping this success is a key priority.”

The review, launched in partnership with the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), is being led by a cross-section of built environment professionals.

The final report will be published this autumn.

The interim report can be read here on the TCPA website (pdf).

Read more:

Planning needs fundamental reform – and you can help

Raynsford review aims for ‘fairer’ planning system

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