Councils need stronger incentives to cooperate on housing need, says RTPI

Local authorities in England should be more strongly incentivised to cooperate to meet housing need across wider areas such as city and county regions, a report from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) argues.

New homes: research suggests 'strikingly few' places where agreement has been reached on housing
New homes: research suggests 'strikingly few' places where agreement has been reached on housing

The report, ‘Strategic Planning: Effective Cooperation for Planning Across Boundaries’, says that the Localism Act's duty to cooperate has worked well in some places, "but in nothing like enough places given the importance of strategic issues such as transport, housing and the environment".

"Our current research into strategic planning around England suggests strikingly few places where agreement has been reached on housing, despite the link between jobs and homes being critical," it adds.

The report recommends that, following the general election in May, the next government should "back up its powerful statements on increasing housing supply with powerful, effective incentives to local authorities to plan properly for the long term, and to plan collectively".

"There is already a mechanism to achieve this through the money awarded through Growth Deals and City Deals," the report says. "Our proposal is that future resources and powers of this kind should only be made available to areas which can demonstrate jointly agreed plans to cater for housing need."

The report also sets out six general principals that should be followed to maximise the benefits of planning across local authority boundaries.

These include "being efficient in the use of resources and clear about its purpose", being "genuinely strategic" and dealing only with matters that require resolution across boundaries, being "spatial" by making choices between places rather than simply establishing general criteria, being collaborative, with partners working together, having strong leadership and being accountable to local electorates.

The report contains recommendations for fresh approaches to strategic planning in each of the UK’s four nations and the Republic of Ireland and emphasises the importance of local buy-in to arrangements for collaboration.

Recommendations include building on a "well established framework of strategic plans" in Scotland by embedding investment programmes for their areas, and in Wales bringing forward strategic plans through the first Planning Bill.

RTPI president Janet Askew said: "Collaboration, strong leadership and democratic accountability are key to strategic planning. There are clear advantages to undertaking strategic economic, transport and housing planning in a coordinated manner and across larger areas."

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