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Victoria Hills: Want economic growth? Then let’s talk about planning

Victoria Hills MRTPI FICE is Chief Executive at the RTPI

As Chief Executive of the RTPI I spend time listening to members, and non members, on the ground. While we welcome the Government’s focus on supply-side reforms to boost housing stock, many planners are hoping for greater certainty following the latest Growth Plans.

What is clear to us is that if Government wants to achieve economic growth it will have to understand that when, appropriately resourced, planning is an enabler, not blocker to unlocking the economic, environmental, and societal gains of the country.

We can only reach net zero and deliver for the economy and communities, with the strategic considerations of infrastructure, environment, health, and design that planning provides.

Building upon the success of their older sibling, the Enterprize Zones, if done right, we believe Government’s proposed Investment Zones would have the potential to create new planning freedoms and help target economic growth and regeneration in the areas that need and want it most. But their success will depend on local leadership and further detail from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Simon Clarke about forthcoming planning reforms and the new bill proposed for nationally significant infrastructure.

These Investment Zones will need to be aligned with the existing local plans and local special visions. A strong plan-led place-based approach is needed to deliver investor confidence.

Planners will need a seat at the table and be provided with the necessary resources, skills, and capacity to deliver for communities. Without a well-resourced planning system, residents and businesses will struggle to engage with the process and then access the housing, education, transport, energy, and broadband they need to spark a new industrial revolution.

In everything we do at the RTPI we are striving to develop our industry to ensure that planners are capable of addressing the issues of today. Our recent Awards for Research Excellence are a reflection of the impressive progress our industry is making. This year, we saw the vast reach of planners, from meeting the housing needs of BAME households in England to the role the built environment plays in delivering mentally healthy places.

As the future of our industry, Young Planners are helping to develop this work. ‘Utopia or Dystopia’ will be the theme of their conference this year, as they seek to critique modern planning and how we as a community can strive for utopian successes whilst avoiding dystopian effects.

It is our hope that the National Planning Conference can be equally as pragmatic when discussing how the industry can embrace the opportunities in planning reforms taking place across the UK.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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