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RTPI hits back at planning attack

07 March 2011

RTPI President Richard Summers has hit out at suggestions over the weekend by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Business Secretary that planning red tape is holding back development. The Times (Wednesday 9 March) published Richard Summers' letter setting the record straight and we have asked to see Ministers to discuss the issues that have been raised.

Far from being one of the being one of the so-called 'enemies of enterprise' the Government's own statistics demonstrate that planning helps to drive and enable much needed development:

The proportion of commercial applications that are approved is generally higher than the overall average – e.g. in year ending Sept 2009, 87-94% of commercial applications (depending on type) were approved by the local planning authority, compared to an overall average of 84%.

DCLG, Dec 2010: Table P124

Over the last decade, the percentage of planning applications approved by local planning authorities has been consistently between 82 and 87%.

DCLG, Dec 2010: Table P120

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Letter to The Times

7 March 2011

Sir,Richard Summers

Planners in the public sector have broad shoulders and accept that they are often a convenient sitting target for ministers (Cable promises to cut red tape that is stifling the High Street, Mar 4).

But for Vince Cable, a minister who normally speaks a great deal of sense, to claim that 'bizarre planning rules' are significantly contributing to the slow down in construction, house prices, the lack of business expansion and that planning is a barrier to development and social mobility, is a curious analysis.

As Mr Cable said in a speech on the same day, the main drivers for growth are fiscal and monetary conditions. The slow down in the property market is the main cause of currently limited development activity, not the planning system.
Britain's planners will continue to help the Government to shape a planning system that best helps promote economic growth at this very difficult and challenging time. Planning is certainly part of the solution. But let's not pretend that it is a magic bullet for the market and introduce yet more uncertainty with additional reform at a time when the Government already has a Bill going through Parliament.

Richard Summers
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)