Coherent Urban Planning Needed to Tackle Climate Crisis

Failing to adopt a more coherent approach to urban planning within the UK’s cities and towns will make it impossible to meet the challenges of population growth, climate change and environmental risks a new study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has found. 

The report – A Smarter Approach to Infrastructure Planning – has found that there is the increasing recognition that efficient and effective infrastructure is important to both national and local economic prosperity, and that there are definitive links between infrastructure investment, productivity and competitiveness. The study also found that there are clear economic and social consequences of failing to invest, as infrastructure plays a vital role in addressing environmental challenges and the transition to a zero-carbon future.

There is evidence of a disconnect between urban planning and infrastructure, and there is a demand for an approach that proactively addresses the infrastructure needs of new development as well as the deficits of existing settlements alike. Without this, the UK will likely struggle to meet its obligations on climate change mitigation, to deliver the quality and quantity of housing currently required, to reduce the productivity gap that exists relative to its international competitors, to adapt to growing environmental risks, and to create healthy, sustainable places.


The report focuses on three major case studies – Staffordshire County Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Glasgow City Council and Staffordshire County Council and identified key barriers to effective infrastructure planning, such as:

  • An overall lack of leadership at the national level on the direction of effective strategic planning.
  • A lack of stable and continuous long-term funding for local authorities, combined with a dependence on developer contributions and competitive funding pots.
  • Complex multi-level governance of infrastructure, with multiple providers operating across different timescales, geographies and regulatory regimes.
  • A tendency to prioritise short-term project delivery rather than place-based objectives.

“Many county areas have project infrastructure funding gaps mounting to billions. This means that new development lacks the necessary roads, schools, health centres, and other public amenities. By closer aligning of planning and infrastructure, giving counties a clear role, and by reforming funding, we can build genuine communities that work for residents – and stop delivering planning by numbers.”

 – Philip Atkins, spokesman for housing and planning, and leader of Staffordshire County Council

The report asks that the government devolves powers and funding for infrastructure, as well as review the overlapping institutional boundaries of LEPs and combined authorities and rationalise these where appropriate to support infrastructure planning. This follows from the RTPI’s ‘Resource Planning for Climate Action’ campaign where one aim was to empower devolved national governments and local authorities to lead on climate change mitigation and give them the resources to do so.


At ethical partnership we are look forward to see the changes that the RTPI suggests from the report, especially with the current political uncertainty. We hope that the campaign will allow for major changes to the urban planning system, with an emphasis on carbon reduction in the face of the climate crisis

With such as vast range of experience, no planning consultancy is better suited to tackle climate change as we are.  We are happy to work with local authorities and developers to ensure that all elements of the planning process make the essential impact to meet the Government’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.  Contact us to find out how we can help. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the work we do!

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