RTPI Outlines Planning Reform Priorities

The RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) has outlined planning reform priorities in its new report, stating that planning in England should be refocused on 21st century issues, with technology harnessed to improve efficiency. The institute also said the planning system should be well resourced to prepare for a sustainable economic recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Published ahead of the government’s planning white paper, Priorities for Planning Reform in England sets out five major recommendations for how better planning could help the government to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, among other 21st century issues. 

The five priorities for planning reform outlined by the RTPI, are to:

1. Invest in place

Greater investment in planning should be a prerequisite for achieving many of the government’s objectives. A major grants programme is required to stimulate housebuilding by councils, housing associations and SMEs, which can help to maintain delivery and stimulate productivity, including in the aftermath of Covid-19. The RTPI wants to see the role of chief planning officer become a statutory position to enable better coordination of this investment.

2. Refocus planning on 21st century issues

Although housing delivery is crucial, policy must give more priority to decarbonisation and climate resilience, design and beauty, connectivity and accessibility, wellbeing and public health, and economic growth. Housing crowds out these objectives and prevents a holistic approach to planning. The government should also measure what matters by assessing how well planning has contributed towards all of these objectives.

3. Display leadership on the digital transformation of planning

Harness technological innovation to foster more efficient and inclusive planning, building upon the innovations by planners under the Covid-19 lockdown. All planning documents should be machine-readable, terminology and processes across government should be standardised, common evidence and analytical capabilities must be developed, and open-source tools that can be used across the development sector should be invested in.

4. Provide a clear direction for strategic planning

Addressing 21st century issues requires long-term strategic planning across wide geographical areas and sectors, which aligns and integrates the economic, infrastructure and environment priorities of local authorities and other stakeholders. The government should provide a clear direction on the level and scope of strategic plans, supported by place-based infrastructure funds and incentives for engagement in plan-making. Examination processes must be appropriate for strategic plans in different parts of the country.

5. Support a strong, plan-led system

The government should consider whether more fixed timescales and consistent structures are appropriate for local plans and should incentivise other statutory consultees to get engaged. It should also support local authorities to play a greater role in strategic land assembly. We do not believe that increased use of zoning is practical or desirable.

Please note that the above views are that of the RTPI, not necessarily ethical partnership. We understand that like all sectors, constant reforms are needed to provide the best possible outcome for all involved and ensure that legislation remains relevant. We welcome information and statements, such as the above by the RTPI, that opens the door for further discussion. 

How can we help?

At ethical partnership our work is guided by our values, where we place a strong emphasis on the needs of the local community. We constantly engage with all stakeholders to ensure that our projects provide the best possible outcome for the local community, and welcome the RTPI’s emphasis that investing in place is a number one priority. 

As an environmentally-conscious organisation, we strive to ensure that our projects consider the biodiversity of the local area. Similarly, we try to maximise green spaces and understand the major role it has on mental health. For more information about the work we do, contact us and find out how we can help with your next planning project.

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