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PR 18 - Royal Town Planning Institute clarifies confusion surrounding the planning white paper

21 May 2007

The RTPI has welcomed the newly published Planning White Paper – Planning for a Sustainable Future – as demonstrating a new commitment to planning by the Government. RTPI Policy Director, Kelvin MacDonald said, \"the White Paper could be the start of a change in the ways in which government, business and the public view planning. It sets a lot of challenges. However, it does demonstrate that the Government has listened to the RTPI and others to moderate some of the wilder assertions about planning that have been made in the recent past. The devil, as always, is in the detail\"

MacDonald continued, \"a fundamental test of this apparent new commitment to planning will come in this year's spending review, in which we expect a level of resourcing that matches the Government aspirations for the planning service.\"

The RTPI is less satisfied about some of the detailed proposals in the Paper. It delivers some if not all of the expected benefits and problems last weekend's media coverage heralded. The proposed Independent Commission for Major Infrastructure Projects ticks a number of RTPI boxes for success (including community involvement); Householders will be able to do more to their properties, although exactly what is out to consultation; Greenbelt policy will remain the same, a real opportunity missed; And the watering down of the 'needs' test is still on the cards but the thinking surrounding the idea is confused and as yet unclear.


The RTP has measured the key proposals in the White Paper in terms of, sustainability, transparency and involvement. Its initial response to these, in light of the yet to be released consultation papers, is two out of four stars..\"

1. Independent Planning Commission:
Sustainability

This depends on the success of the public consultation, upon which the decisions of the Commission will stand or fall. The Casino Commission decision is a warning to Government!

Transparency

The structure of the commission, scrutiny from Parliament and clear national policy should make decisions more transparent and decision makers more accountable

Involvement

The new system ticks all the right community involvement boxes, but will mean little if the Energy White Paper sets out national policy without reference to the public engagement requirements already set out here.

2. Permitted Development:
Sustainability

The announcements in the White Paper are the start of the process.

Transparency

A further consultation will outline what is and what is not decided as permitted development

Involvement

n/a.

3. Greenbelt policy
Sustainability

Very poor. Although the White Paper continues the current process which allows for some sustainable development. Government has missed the opportunity to put sustainability at the heart of greenbelt policy

Transparency

Poor. The current system is under-the-counter and unclear. Missed opportunity for a national public debate in favour of short-term political gain.

Involvement   

 Poor. Difficult for communities to have a say as the policy is unclear and the evidence partial.

4. Removal of the 'needs' test
Sustainability

The language is unclear and the policy opaque. The language of town-centre-first might not be backed by the move to provide for competition and economic development.

Transparency

Poor. Mixed messages and a lack of clarity are frustrating. How an out-of-town development helps the town centre is unclear?

 Involvement  

The planning system is democratic and any development should be part of the local development framework. The White Paper's support for a plan-led system is good news.


END

For further information please contact:

Andrew Kliman, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479, mob. 07870 672 020

Kelvin MacDonaId, RTPI Director of Policy and Research, 0207 929 9474

Notes to Editors
1. The Planning White Paper can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk

2. More information about the RTPI's view of the White Paper can be found on the Policy pages.

3. 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. The RTPI is the largest professional institute for planners
worldwide, with over 20,000 members.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at: www.rtpi.org.uk
41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865