RTPI questions claims on cost of planning delays

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has challenged the coalition government's repeated claim that planning delays cost the economy £3 billion a year.

RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott
RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott
Speaking yesterday at a meeting of the communities and local government select committee, RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott said: "We think there is no evidence that planning costs the economy £3 billion."

The £3 billion figure was cited in the Treasury’s Plan for Growth, published in March, which said that "planning delays cost an estimated £3 billion a year".

The figure has since been repeated in a Financial Times article jointly written by communities secretary Eric Pickles and chancellor George Osborne and later in a speech by Osborne, who told a conference in September that "planning delays also cost the economy around £3 billion a year".

Elliott told the select committee that the Plan for Growth said that the £3 billion figure had come from a Reading University report.

"I read the Reading University report and actually that doesn’t have evidence of the £3 billion," she said. "That refers back to the Barker report in 2006. What Kate Barker said in that report was that there is very little evidence about costs of planning to the economy. The only study that report could find was a 1992 CBI study."

Elliott added that the RTPI had submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Treasury to find out the government’s evidence behind claims that the planning costs in Britain are among the highest in the world.

She said: "The reply I got was, ‘I can confirm that, after a search of our records, HM Treasury does not hold any recorded information in scope of your request'."

Labour MP Simon Danczuk, a member of the select committee, described the £3 billion figure as "complete fiction". "The figure has no basis whatsoever," he said.

But decentralisation minister Greg Clark told the committee the figure was cited in the "first line of a conclusion that Professor Michael Ball, who is a pretty distinguished academic in this matter, made".

He added: "I don’t think it’s for me to criticise his citation of the estimate."

Clark told the committee that the coalition government had "inherited" a number of studies that demonstrated that the planning system "could be better".

For example, he said that the government-commissioned 2008 Killian Pretty review had stated that "planning decisions still take longer in the UK than other countries with which we compete internationally".


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