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Place poverty must be tackled, new report says

11 May 2016

Government efforts to tackle poverty will not succeed if they neglect “place poverty”, RTPI says


Many national and local policies are failing to address poverty because they are ignoring how well planned local environments with good services and transport can help lift people out of poverty, the RTPI warns today.


Research has shown that people in deprived communities have an unfair share of the environmental burden as well as being more vulnerable to their impacts 









The RTPI’s report, “Place, Poverty and Inequality - Why place-based approaches are key to tackling poverty and inequality”, sets out the problems the UK, and especially England, is facing:

  • national welfare policies have put too much emphasis on addressing individual factors behind poverty, such as low skills and poor education, and not enough attention to improving places;
  • local policies do not tackle physical and social deprivation enough as an integral part of housing and growth initiatives. An RTPI survey reveals that 40% of local authority plans across the UK do not make any specific reference to poverty, social exclusion and inequality. Many devolution deals promoted by the UK Government neglect poverty and inequality as well.

The Government’s “sink estate” regeneration programme acknowledges the link between local environments and life chances, but it does not yet tackle wider issues like transport and community needs, and is not funded properly.

Good planning can increase people's opportunities

Trudi Elliott, RTPI Chief Executive, said: “Many of the root causes of deprivation and social inequality are bound up in the poor quality of neighbourhoods – places that have no employment and lack community amenities, are poorly connected or simply run down. Good planning is the one tool in our hands that can make places increase people’s opportunities and help lift them from poverty.

“Devolution in the UK is giving cities and local authorities the opportunity to adopt a more holistic approach to planning and improve the places that people live in. From putting housing in the right location to designing better bus services, we’d like to see planning at city, county and regional levels tackle physical and social deprivation more directly as a core part of housing delivery and growth deals, supported by social services that address local needs.”

Ocean Estate Tower HamletRegeneration of the Ocean Estate in London, closely involved residents


Ways of measuring the quality of places, such as the Place Standard Tool adopted in Scotland, can help address ‘place poverty’. The report highlights the MAPS tool developed by the University of York and Loughborough, which identifies what “good places” should have, including access to services and facilities, safety, and neighbourliness. 

Regeneration programmes need to incorporate measures to address unemployment and help local residents. The report cites the success of Workplace, an employment one-stop shop established in 2007 in Newham, London, to build on the regeneration of the area due to the Olympics.

Local Enterprise Partnerships in England could also play a much stronger role in co-ordinating transport and access to employment, directing jobs and capital to poorer areas, and investing in people’s potential through training schemes.

Case studies show what can be achieved when ‘place poverty’ is taken seriously, for example by maintaining and adding social housing and providing better community facilities. The Gorbals and the Central Govan Plan regeneration initiatives in Glasgow, and the Ocean Estate in London, show how improving places help increase employment and reduce the welfare bill.

Poverty, Place and Inequality - Why places-based approaches are key to tackling poverty and inequality” is the latest in the RTPI’s series of policy papers that advance the Institute’s thinking on better planning in the UK, Ireland and internationally.