The paper, Making Better Decisions for Places, by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said challenges such as housing shortages span a range of issues, including employment, infrastructure, transport and public health, and they therefore require policy and decision-makers to work more effectively beyond existing institutional, geographic and disciplinary boundaries.
It added that while policy-makers increasingly recognise the need to devolve more power and responsibility to cities and communities this approach must overcome "common failures" to ensure success.
It said "governance blindness" – a lack of reflection on the appropriate level of decision-making to deal with issues that cross local, regional and national boundaries – has undermined responses to some of these key issues.
Siloed policy and decision-making, and governing by traditional borders rather than using "functional geographies" were other common mistakes, the report said.
To overcome these failures, the report set out four ‘tests’ for successful devolution. These are:
Identifying decisions with a primarily national impact and those with a primarily sub-national impact, and reflecting this in governance arrangements;
Allowing policy decisions to be made according to where policies interact (for example, cities, city-regions, or local communities), to better respond to challenges such as housing, transport and flooding;
Aligning governance arrangements with real functional economic areas rather than traditional administrative borders and boundaries;
Ensuring that institutions at local, regional, city, national and international level are suitably equipped and resourced to make and implement decisions.
Cath Ranson, president of the RTPI, said the challenges of making sustainable, better places won’t be resolved by one organisation or a single profession.
She said: "Understanding what we want to create for local places requires a whole range of actors in the public, private and third sectors to work together – in particular communities need to be closely involved in decision-making.
"Decision-makers at all levels need to be brought together to enable the best decisions for places, to ensure that communities are provided with the services and opportunities they need."