New RTPI ‘toolkit’ aims to help practitioners 'holistically' assess long-term benefits of planning

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has produced a new methodology that it says would allow local authorities to take a more "holistic" and long-term approach to measuring the impact of planning.

Galsgow skyline - image: Discolover18 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Galsgow skyline - image: Discolover18 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to an RTPI statement, the Measuring What Matters: Planning Outcomes Research report and accompanying resources aim to measure planning outcomes over time beyond "simple" metrics such as the speed of processing applications and the number of houses built towards a "more holistic approach". 

The research was funded by the RTPI, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the governments of Ireland, Scotland and Wales and Ireland’s Office of the Planning Regulator.

Launched on Sunday (6 November) to mark World Town Planning Day, the research and accompanying toolkits for national jurisdictions, plus a handbook and case studies, build on previous RTPI work. 

Intended to be used in a cycle of monitor, review and application of learning through diagnosis across a range of spatial scales, the toolkit, which has already been piloted in Ireland and Scotland, will enable planners to monitor, evaluate and ultimately repurpose planning in the public interest.

The research identifies eight “outcome themes” of place quality; health and wellbeing; environment; climate change; homes and community; movement; economy and town centres; and process and engagement. It is intended to “support the alignment between planning and national and international outcomes” within these.

In doing this, the toolkit allows users to “demonstrate the value of planning’s contribution to environmental, economic and societal outcomes, making it a useful evidence base across all levels of government”. Initially using only data already available to authorities, it outlines a “staged transition towards a more ambitious approach”.

As well as to planning professionals, the research should be of interest to “politicians, civic and community representatives, and partner agencies in environment, economy, health and wellbeing”, the report says.

While separate toolkits are available tailored to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, "The 'common' toolkit relates to the UN Sustainable Development Goals so would be relevant to English users," an RTPI spokesperson told Planning.

The research and toolkits were produced by a consortium of planning consultancies and academics from around the UK and Ireland led by Glasgow-based Kevin Murray Associates (KMA).

RTPI Scotland and Ireland director Craig McLaren said: “We need to measure what matters, and although this is complex, it is essential to determine whether, and how, the potential wider benefits of planning are being realised.”

KMA associate director Iain MacPherson added: “If you are what you measure, this risks a system in which success is viewed narrowly through the prism of process and performance, and does not necessarily deliver on quality of life and physical place.

“At a time when we need planning to respond to economic and societal pressures, it needs to demonstrate that it delivers the public interest and longer-term environmental outcomes.”

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