County councils keen to take on strategic planning powers, says survey

Almost nine in 10 county councils are keen to take on strategic planning powers, according to a new survey.

Catriona Riddell launching her report at the CCN conference today

The study, by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the County Councils Network (CCN), also found that just under two-thirds of counties said that they had a ‘severe’ need for affordable homes in their areas.

The survey features in a new report by the TCPA and the CCN looking at the role of county councils in planning and housing delivery.

It was launched today at a CCN housing conference in London alongside a second report examining county councils' strategic planning role by consultant Catriona Riddell working with the CCN.

Both reports argue that a stronger role for county councils in the strategic planning process would better align planning for housing, which is a district council responsibility, and infrastructure, which counties administer.

The TCPA asked upper-tier county councils whether they would be interested in taking on strategic planning for housing. 13 of the 15 - or 87 per cent - said yes; the other two councils did not know.

The TCPA study also found that 62 per cent of counties described their need for affordable housing as ‘severe' while a further 29 per cent said their need was 'moderate’. Only nine per cent said their need was 'limited'.

The TCPA report recommends:

  • a central role for counties in the new requirement for local authorities to sign statements of common ground with their neighbours;
  • government should boost capacity so more counties develop housebuilding initiatives.

Meanwhile, the report by Catriona Riddell, a consultant and strategic planning specialist at the Planning Officers Society, argues that the government should re-introduce a statutory role for county councils in strategic planning.

Until 2010, she said, counties had a statutory role in strategic planning, but this was removed under the coalition government's planning reforms.

Riddell's report calls for new statutory joint strategic planning arrangements, to align housing, infrastructure and economic priorities, within which all local authorities should be included as equal partners.

Riddell said: "The government has recognised the need to have stronger links between building the new homes the country needs and providing the right infrastructure to ensure that development is sustainable. 

"This research demonstrates clearly that we need to move away from planning by numbers to place-based strategic planning and that, in two tier areas, the counties have a significant role to play alongside the local planning authorities".

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive, said: "The report demonstrates that counties are an important part of the solution to the national housing crisis."

The TCPA's Building for the Future: The Role of County Councils in Housing Need can be found here.

Catriona Riddell Associates' Counties and Strategic Planning: A Review of Current and Emerging Practice can be found here.