Report calls for London boroughs planning skills and funding boost

Councillors in outer London boroughs should be given greater mandatory planning training and there should be more funding for planning teams from central government, a report has urged.

Outer London: report calls for planning skills boost
Outer London: report calls for planning skills boost

The study, Outer London Town Centres: A New Approach, by think-tank Planning Futures, warned that local politicians often lacked the skills and knowledge to play a "constructive role in driving the revitalisation of town centres".

"Strong political champions can play a constructive role in driving the revitalisation of town centres. Council leaders and planning cabinet members play an important role in setting priorities and creating a positive environment for development within their town centres," said the report.

"However, those interviewed by Planning Futures for this project painted a confused picture of the political dimension in shaping the future of outer London town centres. There was a strong indication that many elected representatives did not have the training or knowledge base to drive positive development."

As well as increasing training for councillors, the report called for better use of existing planning tools, more meaningful stakeholder engagement and clear action plans to create vibrant town centres.

There was also a plea for more planning funding from central government.

"Already overworked planning departments currently do not have time to expand their activities to meet the demands of visionary planning on the scale suggested here," said the study.

"While there is a strong argument to suggest that local authorities can make more efficient use of their resources by combining resources with neighbouring authorities, planning as a process is likely to require additional investment in order to deliver truly transformative change."

The report also said the amount of vacant retail space had soared by 47 per cent in outer London hubs in the five years to 2012. It added that the amount of office space had fallen in the 12 years to 2012 in sharp contrast to its growth at the heart of the capital.

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