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Value of Planning

The RTPI's work programme on the value of planning seeks to promote and inform a more considered, balanced and evidenced debate on the relationship between planning and economic growth.

Contrary to the views of some critics, planning can and does play a positive and proactive role in sustainable economic growth and development.

This page summarises the main projects and activities conducted so far under this programme.

Delivering the Value of Planning

Delivering the Value of Planning full report (August 2016)

Delivering the Value of Planning summary briefing (August 2016)

This report demonstrates how good planning can deliver sustainable economic growth and housing. It also suggests why in the UK we are not consistently realising the value of planning in practice, especially compared to parts of continental Europe. It is based on research conducted by The University of Glasgow, The University of Sheffield and the RTPI. 

Key messages

Planning can produce significant benefits for society, including delivering more and better housing development.

In the UK, these benefits are not being consistently realised. In part this is because of decades of almost continual changes to planning policy and regulation.

Planning is critical to providing clarity and confidence for investments by markets so that they are able to deliver good development. It can improve the quantity and quality of land for development, ready land for construction, resolve ownership constraints, and bring forward investment by ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place.

However, thirty years of almost continual changes in planning policy and regulation, and the failure to recognise and support the potential of planning, has left the UK incapable of consistently delivering good quality (new) places. 

Serious cuts in local government budgets, combined with the impact of continual change, have increasingly limited the ability of local planning authorities to ensure more and better development.

There is an urgent need to take stock of the planning systems we have now, what they can deliver, and to debate alternative futures for planning that might produce better results.

Instead of stripping powers from planning authorities, governments need to maximise the potential of planning and ensure that planners have the powers and resources to deliver positive, proactive planning.

Three key things need to be done:

  • Firstly, planners themselves need to talk much more about how better economic as well as social and environmental outcomes can be delivered through well-planned development.
  • Secondly, national and local government needs to consider the particular powers, resources and expertise that planning services require.
  • Thirdly, in both research and policy, the value of planning needs to be analysed according to the extent to which it delivers the economic, social and environmental benefits it can, and how to ensure these outcomes are maximised.

The Value of Planning report

The Value of Planning (full report) June 2014

The Value of Planning (research briefing) June 2014

This research, conducted for the RTPI by Professor David Adams, The University of Glasgow, and Professor Craig Watkins, The University of Sheffield, examines the value of planning, focusing primarily on economic and financial value, while recognising the importance of broader social and environmental value.

Remarkably, given the debates around planning reform in the UK, this work represents the only recent and wide-ranging review of research regarding the economic value of planning. This research finds that there is little robust or systematic evidence for the proposition that the planning system acts as a barrier to economic growth. Rather, planning helps to create the kinds of places where people want to live, work, relax and invest – often termed 'shaping places'. Planning is about improving places by helping them to function better economically as well as socially and environmentally.

The report also sets out what could comprise a more substantive, pluralist and wide-ranging research programme into the value of planning.

The Institute is continuing its collaboration with Glasgow and Sheffield on a follow-up paper on 'Realising the Value of Planning'.

SPIRe projects for 2015

Under the RTPI's SPIRe scheme (which supports research from RTPI accredited planning departments), in 2015 we commissioned two projects related to the value of planning: 

Planning as 'market maker': How planning is used to stimulate development in Germany, France and the Netherlands

Exploring case studies from Hamburg, Lille and Nijmegen, this SPIRe project illustrates how proactive planning, as often utilised by our closest Western European neighbours, can lead to more quanitity and quality of output in the built environment.

The full report and the summary from this research are now available.

Dr Alex Lord, Dr Phil O'Brien, Dr Olivier Sykes and Dr John Sturzaker, from the University of Liverpool, analyse the particular planning-realted factors exhibited in these case studies and why they are so successful.

The authors find that when planning is provided with a proactive remit to utilise functions such as upfront investment in infrastructure and land assembly, planning can coordinate the development of the built environment in a way that can facilitate the achievement of social and economic goals.

Planning China's future: How planners contribute to growth and development

This SPIRe project examines evidence from China to show the significant economic, social and environmental value that a robust planning system can bring.

The full report and summary from this research are now available.

Professor Fulong Wu, Dr Fangzhu Zhang and Zheng Wang (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London) find that the firm confidence among planners and political leaders in China that planning can be a leading force in fostering economic growth is largely due to a proactive interpretation of the role of planning in strengthening the economy as well as shaping the market according to the needs of society. It also stems from political support of planning at the highest level.

The report presents strong evidence from the Chinese case that planning and a wide spectrum of associated activities can be supporting growth by stimulating the market for land developments, shaping markets and regulating markets. Through transforming planning practices and enabling planning capacities, planning can play a leading role in generating economic value.

More information on the SPIRe programme can be found here.

The Gorbals regeneration - Delivering economic value through planning

This working paper shows how planning and regeneration have been used to deliver economic benefits to the residents of The Gorbals in South Glasgow.

The working paper can be found here.

This analysis shows how, after two decades of regeneration, unemployment in The Gorbals fell by 31% between 2004 and 2012, whilst the percentage of people "income deprived", including those on welfare benefits, also fell by 35% in the same period.

This compares significantly better than the average of Glasgow as a whole, which saw only a 16% drop in unemployment and a 21% drop in "income deprived" citizens between 2004 and 2012.

The paper's hypothesis proposes that living in safer, cleaner and more attractive places is likely to enable individuals to become more economically active and live more fulfilling lives, and this study provides some strong evidence.

The publication makes a much needed case that good planning and place-making has a direct impact on individuals' lives, rather than just delivering 'gentrification' effects.

We will be developing additional in-house projects which build on and extend this agenda.

Can investments in planning deliver economic benefits to private citizens?

This working paper reports on a small-scale econometric study into the effects of investment in parkland in Dagenham, East London, on surrounding house prices. The working paper is intended to stimulate further discussion and research of this type.

The study seeks to isolate specific area-based attributes that affect house prices within a neighbourhood, and in doing to add to our understanding of the attributes of an area that individuals place economic value on. The study seeks to determine if this type of planning intervention to turn around a run-down area, an activity typically thought of as a social goal, can also be shown to have economic value.

The working paper is accompanied by a summary briefing.

Other papers

In addition, the RTPI has published a Policy Paper on planning and growth.

One of the Institute's Planning Horizons reports also focuses on how planning can promote and support sustainable economic growth, development and regeneration over the long-term.

Further information

We welcome suggestions for further work on this agenda, including proposals for partnerships and collaborations.

For further information, please contact: research@rtpi.org.uk

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