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PR 03 - Policy Exchange report is a tissue of misinformation says RTPI

24 January 2007

Confused, over-simplified and just plain wrong – a tissue of misinformation' was how the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) described the latest report from the Policy Exchange, 'Best laid plans', set to be launched on Wednesday 24 January. The report shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the planning system and lacks any real evidence in support of their claims.

Jim Claydon, President of the RTPI said: \"This report is wrong, it is confused and often contradicts itself. The authors' determination not to recognise contributing factors, such as employment patterns, transport infrastructure or good schools, could lead people to assume the report was written with a clear agenda – to undermine the planning system and allow chain-stores such as Next to be built anywhere. Government should not be persuaded to abandon our town centres in favour of a wave of out-of-town tin sheds. This report is a tissue of misinformation.

\"The authors of this report are five or six years behind developments in planning. Their conclusion states that planning can no longer be seen as affecting only the physical environment. The RTPI developed this position over five years ago in our 'New Vision' where we championed spatial planning. Sir Nicholas Stern recognised in his report the indispensable role planning plays in tackling climate change – by arguing for less planning the authors have shown that they have not understood this, and many other concepts.\"

Examples of poorly constructed arguments in the report include:

The Policy Exchange report blames the planning system for constraining the delivery of houses. Yet two key studies both identify that land with planning permission sits empty (see below). House builders have a role to play in delivering new homes yet the only time the Policy Exchange report mentions the term house builders is in listing consultancy work carried out by Professor Evans for the House Builders Federation.

High land prices are judged by the report to be the 'main obstacles to social mobility'. However land prices are not even across the UK. Failing northern towns are doing their best to create housing markets and make their land more valuable, and yet they share the same planning system.  The housing market is not like other markets – they might as well be asking to abolish successful schools for pushing up property prices.

The report suffers from many inaccuracies and contradictions. The opening sentence of the report which states that it is a "myth that land in the UK is a scarce resource\" is completely wrong. The report's proposal to introduce another tax at local level is contradictory to everything else in this paper and an unnecessary burden on developers who have come to terms with the much more flexible and adaptable system of legal agreements.

The authors accuse the planning system of creating delays to major infrastructure projects and rally against an independent planning commission as suggested by both Barker and Eddington in their recent reports and supported by the RTPI. In its place they suggest an Act of Parliament as a method for speeding up the system. In fact delays in these decisions are due to a lack of clear government policy and the time spent on Ministers' desks, as proved by Ron Eddington in his report, (The Eddington Transport Study, Chapter 4.5, page 326, Figure 5.8).

END

For further information please contact:

Andrew Kliman, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479

Kelvin MacDonald, RTPI Director of Policy and Practice, 0207 929 9470

 Notes to Editors

1. Towards the Mayor's Housing Strategy Consultation Paper published in November 2006, Chapter 4, page 16 says: \"The 2004 London Housing Capacity Study shows that there is sufficient land to deliver this [30,500] number of new homes each year up to 2016 and that the new target could be met if all the current permissions for new homes in the planning pipeline were built.\" The report goes on to say: \"A further cause for optimism is that the number of residential planningpermissions has also increased significantly in recent years, creating aplanning pipeline of 142,290 new homes.\"

2. Regional Monitoring Report produced by the South East Regional Assembly, 2005,

Chapter 5, page 62, Key Findings, In the South East alone, the area under most demand for growth, planning permission has already been granted for a total of 231 900 units, equivalent to an eight-year supply of land for new homes, ready to be built.

3. House-builder Taylor Woodrow's annual report stated they have increased their UK land bank by 10%. Barratt say they have increased \"Land stocks\" to \"66,500 plots – 4.5 years supply\" up from 2005.

4. The Eddington Report can be found at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_about/documents/page/dft_about_612142.hcsp

5.  The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

The RTPI is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people.  We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space.  Through our members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

As well as promoting spatial planning, RTPI develops and shapes policy affecting the built environment, works to raise professional standards and supports members through continuous education, training and development.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at: www.rtpi.org.uk

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