UK 'can learn from Chinese planning system'

The UK could learn from the Chinese planning system in terms of using stronger strategic planning to boost economic growth, a report has concluded.

China: report says UK can learn from strategic planning emphasis (pic Axel Drainville via Flickr)
China: report says UK can learn from strategic planning emphasis (pic Axel Drainville via Flickr)

A study commissioned by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said town planning could be used to drive the UK economy – but was currently seen as a brake rather than an accelerator.

Planning China’s Future, based on research by three members of staff from University College London (UCL), found that municipalities in the Asian powerhouse used strategic planning to attract the developments they wanted.

The study said that while China’s system was not to be seen as best practice for other countries, it did show how planning could support growth.

"The focus of planning should be shifted from physical design to economic development in order to cope with the demands of the market," said the report.

"In the Chinese context, planning has undergone this transformation and succeeded in adapting to the marketisation of the Chinese economy. Chinese planning in this case has managed to become more important and central to the governance system."

The report also said that studying the Chinese system also illustrates "how extreme liberalisation of the planning system should be avoided, as this would weaken the ability of planners to shape the development market". 

The report was based on research conducted for the RTPI by Fulong Wu, Fangzhu Zhang and Zheng Wang from the Bartlett School of Planning at UCL.

RTPI head of research Mike Harris said: "As the UK develops its strategic relationship with China on major projects and investments such as the National Infrastructure Plan and the Northern Powerhouse, these findings can be useful to provide a more positive interpretation of planning and help counter the perception that planning is a passive obstacle to economic growth."

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