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  6. RTPI plans national myth-busting campaign over planning

RTPI plans national myth-busting campaign over planning

The Royal Town Planning Institute TPI will shortly be launching a nationwide myth-busting campaign in a bid to ensure a better informed debate about the role of planning and the planning profession.

This initiative was highlighted in a response from RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott to comments by Neil O’ Brien, director of think-tank the Policy Exchange, about the need to change the planning regime to boost growth. His remarks came in an article in the Daily Telegraph.

O'Brien stated: “Land in Britain is made scarce and expensive by some of the world’s tightest planning laws. That is why we have some of the most expensive office space in the world. It also pushes up your rent or mortgage and jacks up the bill for housing benefit.

“The Government is trying to liberalise planning, but is already meeting resistance. Ministers could do more to make development more palatable. It is essential that the Treasury allows at least half of the money that new developments yield to stay locally, so that communities have a financial incentive.

“People should also be given the right to vote against new developments. We need a more nuanced approach to the greenbelts which have encircled our cities since the 1980s: not all farmland is beautiful, and not all new homes are ugly. Local people should choose what they want”.

RTPI chief executive Elliott responded in a letter: “Unfortunately, Neil O’Brien’s analysis about how we get Britain growing crucially perpetuates, rather than questions, the myth that the planning system is responsible for everything from the cost of your mortgage and the high level of office rents to the rising housing benefit bill, and that it holds back development.”

She wrote: “The reality is that our country is a relatively small island with a large and growing population so there is a lot of competition for the available land. We also cannot ignore prevailing global economic difficulties.

“Nor do we have, as Mr O’Brien states, some of the world’s tightest planning laws. Our system does however, prevent ‘planning chaos’. Developers cannot build what they like, where they like, and when they like.

“We certainly do not oppose government plans to incentivise local communities to accept growth. It is a fallacy though to believe that local people will welcome all development just because there is some kind of financial reward attached to it. The experience of planners is that high quality development, supported by the right services, and genuine community development, is essential to encourage support for growth” insisted Elliott.

She concluded: “We really must move away from these and the all too many other myths that surround the planning system. That is why the RTPI will shortly be launching a national myth busting campaign to ensure there is a better informed debate about the role of planning and the planning profession in supporting our country’s needs”.


Roger Milne

11 August 2011