RTPI launches myth-busting drive with top five planning fictions

Please help us build the evidence base we need to refute the various myths that have built up around planning in england, urges James Butler.

Vital role: Richard Summers joins planners on a recent visit to a Bracknell Regeneration Partnership redevelopment project
Vital role: Richard Summers joins planners on a recent visit to a Bracknell Regeneration Partnership redevelopment project

The Royal Town Planning Institute has launched a major drive to dispel some of the myths that have grown up around planning in England. The myth-busting campaign, accessible from the home page of the institute's website, initially tackles what we consider to be the most commonly expressed myths, presenting evidence to refute them. The campaign aims to boost confidence in the local planning system and improve understanding of the work of the planning profession.

RTPI president Richard Summers said: "It's time that many of the myths about planning were dispelled. Good planning can help provide new housing, act as a catalyst for growth and jobs, protect the environment and give local people a genuine say in developing the character of the places where they live and work. It also prevents a free-for-all where anyone can build what they like, where they like and when they like."

The starting point for the myth campaign is that the planning system is falsely blamed for many of the very real problems that exist. For example, the RTPI does not seek to deny that there is a shortage of affordable housing in many parts of the country - but it does want to demonstrate that neither planners nor the planning system are to blame for this deficit.

The campaign seeks to kick-start a debate about the value of planning. To achieve this, members are encouraged to contact their local newspapers about the campaign. But it also aims to increase the evidence base the RTPI can draw on to support the profession. Members should contact the institute with evidence that both supports and challenges what has been said.

The RTPI is clear that the current planning system is not perfect. We will continue to argue for improvements, working with local and national government to raise planning standards through the work we do with our members to set and regulate high standards of professional practice.

Pages dedicated to each myth, including the current evidence base, are live and will be added to as evidence is gathered. The "top five" planning myths are:

1. The default response to a planning application is "no" Government statistics show that, for at least a decade, more than eight out of every ten planning applications have been granted. The figure for major commercial applications, which are critical for economic growth, is even higher at around 90 per cent.

2. Planning is slow Councils as a whole meet or exceed the eight or 13-week application decision targets set for them by the government. Only 0.7 per cent of planning applications take longer than 12 months to reach a decision.

3. Planning is costly Costs continue to fall. Application fees are very small compared with the potential profits that development can bring.

4. Planning is a drag on economic growth Planning significantly contributes to prosperity. The certainty that the planning system provides is essential to supporting the investment decisions of the private sector.

5. Planning forces up house prices The current slump in housebuilding is the result of a lack of finance, both for home buyers and housebuilders, that has been prevalent since the "credit crunch". The slowdown in the number of planning permissions granted is the result of a lack of planning applications. There is not a lack of houses, premises to convert or sites to build on. In England, there are around 750,000 empty homes, nearly half of which have been vacant for more than six months, and developers have permission for around 300,000 homes that they are not currently building.

In addition to providing us with evidence and engaging in a debate with their local press, members can also contact their local politicians about the campaign, using the full briefing that is available on the RTPI website. Let us know if there are any myths that we have missed and, of course, help to promote best practice through our regional and national planning awards.

James Butler is communications and public affairs officer at the RTPI. For more information about the Planning Myths campaign, please visit www.rtpi.org.uk or email the institute at policy@rtpi.org.uk with your comments.

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