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RTPI reports call for greater emphasis on planning's economic worth

Words: Sam Waddicor

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has released two new research papers looking at the economic value of planning and how that value can be maximised.

The papers form a significant part of the rhetoric that the RTPI will use when interacting with the political parties and the electorate in the run up to the 2015-17 electoral period.

The Value of Planning (pdf), put together by the University of Glasgow and the University of Sheffield on behalf of the RTPI, looks at the need to develop a greater understanding of planning's economic impact. It concludes that people need to reject an often narrow regulatory concept of planning and instead be comprehensive in their assessment of planning’s role in shaping markets.

The paper also argues that previous research into the economic impact of planning failed to assess the costs of planning reliably and were been too narrow in their approach.

''The piece of work we've been doing with Glasgow and Sheffield universities critiques some of the more high profile pieces of work from people like Michael Ball and Paul Cheshire and identifies some serious deficiencies with that work," said Michael Harris, the RTPI's deputy head of policy and research. 

''We're trying to respond to a small number of commentators who are very vocal and in a way have set the agenda for the debate about planning - they’re agendas used to justify certain policy reforms but we don't [think] that they've been sufficiently critiqued."

Ten steps to fostering growth through planning:

1. Enable planning and growth at functional economic level

2. Map policies on central map and develop sustainable growth strategies

3. Encourage champions to lead vision for growth

4. Demonstrate commitment and benefits to community

5. Promote better co-operation between public and private sectors

6. Involve community and planners early

7. Investigate possible benefits of devolution to local authorities

8. Achieve better outcomes with additional financial support

9. Enhance economic literacy amongst professionals

10. Align consenting process and reduce unnecessary paperwork

Source: Fostering Growth

RTPI president Cath Ranson added: “Remarkably, given the debates around planning reform in the UK, the Glasgow and Sheffield study represents the only recent and wide-ranging review of research on the economic value of planning. The study shows that we need to use many different branches of economics to capture the true value of planning. Ultimately a better understanding of the way planning can support growth will help to create more economically sustainable and successful places”.

The second paper from the RTPI, called Fostering Growth: Understanding and Strengthening the Economic Benefits of Planning (pdf), looks at how to maximise planning value once the broad view approach suggested in The Value of Planning is implemented.

"We asked 'How and where is the planning system effectively achieving sustainable growth and can lessons be replicated elsewhere?',” said Jim Hubbard, the RTPI's policy and networks manager.

It finishes with ten recommendations to increase economic outcomes through planning that fall into four overarching categories. These are: re-emphasise a strategic approach to planning and the economy; strengthen relationships between developers, planners, politicians and communities; acknowledge the importance of place and support for those responsible; and implement 'customer friendly' approaches.

As previous research has influenced government policy on planning, the RTPI hopes that this new research will contribute to the government taking a broader view on planning in future.

Both papers can be downloaded from the RTPI website.

Photo credit: Richard Kenworthy