RTPI calls for single planning body and strategic vision for the North

A single planning body should be established to develop an "overarching spatial vision" for the whole of the North of England, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said.

The North: RTPI calls for single planning body and strategic vision. Image: Flickr / Stuart Richards
The North: RTPI calls for single planning body and strategic vision. Image: Flickr / Stuart Richards

Development of a spatial vision is one of several recommendations made today as part of a framework setting out the institute’s recommended approach to planning in the North of England over the next 30 years.

The RTPI said the vision should "focus significant investment within economic corridors linked by high quality rail infrastructure" and "should cover sustainable development, sustainable mobility, transformational housing, planning for zero-carbon, and enhancing cultural heritage and identity".

Calling for the creation of a single body with spatial planning and economic powers, the institute said: "There is currently no single body with spatial planning and economic powers – a governance gap that urgently needs to be filled. In the meantime, existing groupings will need to take these proposals forward."

Today’s framework builds on a call made by the RTPI in 2015 for production of a ‘Great North Plan’ and offers a detailed analysis of what such a plan might look like. 

Detailed recommendations announced today include the adoption of an alternative to the government’s standard method for assessing housing need to reflect the "transformational growth agenda" in the North.

A procedure for conducting green belt reviews should also be established as part of the spatial vision, the RTPI said, which would balance the objectives of the government’s Environment Plan with "the significant changes to economic geography which are taking place".

The RTPI also recommends the creation of various other documents to guide development in the North.

A ports, logistics, airports and industrial strategy should be published "to take advantage of new rail capacity for intermodal freight and the industrial economy, ensuring alignment with global markets and international trade routes," it said.

Meanwhile, the institute said spatial strategies will be required for all functional areas in the North, alongside spatial plans for national parks and areas of natural beauty, and local connectivity plans to ensure delivery of links to strategic infrastructure.

RTPI president Ian Tant said: "At a time when the North looks set to receive unprecedented levels of investment, we must think hard about how to capitalise on this to ensure that change benefits everyone over the long term. Entrenched ways of delivering housing and infrastructure through silo working will only repeat mistakes of the past.

"This is the moment to reinvest in good planning – from the most local level to strategically across boundaries - to create not only a prosperous North but greener, healthier, more inclusive and sustainable places that people proudly call home."

A report published today by a group of universities said that new spatial plan for England could assist in the delivery of "major extensions to the urban structure, either through planned major town expansion or new towns", helping to address the UK's regional inequalities. 

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