Scrapping spending review must not undermine key role of planning, RTPI says

The government’s scrapping of its multi-year Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) this week must not jeopardise funding for the planning system, which has a key role in the UK's economic recovery, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said.

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills - image: RTPI
RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills - image: RTPI

Its chief executive Victoria Hills has written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for “urgent clarification” on how planning departments will now be funded.

“Certainty for planning departments will be key to ensuring continuing investment in infrastructure and development,” she wrote. “I urge a commitment to a longer-term funding settlement for planning, and at a minimum, an urgent injection of funds in the November round.”

She said investment in the planning system “is crucial to project efficiency and to incentivise investment in development”.

“Repeated reports and evidence from developers of all sizes show that inadequate resourcing of planning departments is one of the primary issues behind development delays,” she added.

It comes as the RTPI launched a new report, Invest and Prosper, yesterday (22 October) at the Housing and Planning All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which argues that planning delivers benefits across housing, health and economic development, though these “are poorly understood and seldom attributed to the planning system”.

The report claims that:

  • Local planning authorities are under pressure to deliver more services with fewer resources, with total expenditure on planning policy having fallen by 22 per cent in England since 2010, more than 40 per cent in Scotland since 2009, and by 50 per cent in Wales since 2008/09;

  • Planning is primarily measured against speed and quantity targets, rather than on the quality of development outcomes, which “can create a perception that the system is broken”;

  • Plan-making is under-resourced compared to development management, meaning the “framework for making development decisions may not reflect strategic priorities”;

  • Planning services primarily serve the most well-off areas, with authorities in areas with poor health and social outcomes harder hit by budget cuts to planning.

The report backs up a demand set out in the RTPI’s CSR response last month for £500 million in the form of a new planning delivery fund, to be injected into England’s planning system over the next four years.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday (22 October) confirmed allocations for individual councils from the £1 billion of additional support, announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month.

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