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Centenary survey reveals public want more say over how their communities develop

13 November 2014

Centenary survey reveals public want more say over how their communities develop

- Scepticism over national and local politicians ability to deliver future jobs and  growth

A poll commissioned to mark the centenary of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI),  the professional body representing 23,000 planners working in the public, private, charitable and education sectors, reveals an overwhelming majority of the public (79%) want a bigger say over the development of their communities. The findings, published today, also show local people believe that investing directly in their communities is the best route to economic growth. But more than 4 in 10 believe their political leaders are unprepared for future economic challenges and almost a third feel their area has declined over the past five years.

Cath Ranson, President of the RTPI, speaking at the launch of the report at the RTPI Ireland conference in Dublin, said:

“With the general election just six months away, all the political parties need to recognise that local people want more, not less say, over the future development of their communities. Our poll also shows they are ahead of politicians in understanding that what makes a place economically successful also involves proper investment in infrastructure and local services, as well as maintaining an attractive area, with green spaces and good local amenities.

“One of the most dramatic findings is that the equivalent of over 12 million people expect to move areas within five years. There is going to be an unprecedented competition amongst places in the UK to ensure they retain their populations and attract new residents and workers. This  underscores the importance of quality of life in generating economic success”.

The poll, published within a new report by the RTPI on ‘Planning Horizons - Creating Economically Successful Places’, shows only 8% want planning and development decisions left to developers, rejecting the notion that developers should be able to build what they want, where they want.

According to the RTPI survey, people generally rate their local area as a good place to live (49% think their area is good, and 21% think it is excellent), but just 52% think that local services are generally of good quality. Many people have a very downbeat view of their local economy:

48% of people think their local area offers too few economic opportunities;

30% think their area has got worse over the past five years;

Only 36% think their local economy will improve over the next five years.

One in four people say they are likely to move away from their local area in the next five years.

People also doubt the ability of national and local politicians to respond to the major economic challenges facing the UK, such as globalisation, increasing competition and technological change. Forty-three percent of people think that national leaders are unprepared for these challenges, while 41% think that local politicians are unprepared.

The RTPI’s report argues that in a fast-changing economy, towns and cities need to adopt a much broader approach to economic development, which goes beyond merely trying to recruit businesses to their area and instead focuses on investing in local services and infrastructure. This view is supported by the public. Sixty-one percent of people think that the best way to grow their local economy is to invest in local services and amenities and make the area attractive.

The survey also reveals what factors that people think are most important in making local areas attractive. The top ten factors according to the public are: cost of living; local amenities; community safety; green spaces; walkability; friends and family; good transport; local economy; diversity of community; high-speed internet.     

The results are based on a nationally-representative survey of 2,083 UK adults conducted on behalf of the RTPI by Populus, 22nd-23rd October 2014.

The RTPI report argues that our economic future depends on creating attractive places to live and work, and that planners can help to create places where people want to live and businesses want to invest, as the fundamental basis for successful and sustainable economic growth in a fast-changing, competitive world.

‘Creating Economically Successful Places’ is part of a series of reports called ‘Planning Horizons’, published by the RTPI in its centenary year, which have addressed major economic, social and environmental challenges facing society in the twenty-first century, and how planning can play an important role in responding to these issues.