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Trudi Elliott: We need a policy framework that puts planners' passion to good use

05 March 2018

The RTPI co-hosted the event today (5 March) during which the Prime Minister launched the consultation of an overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the reform of developer contributions in England. 

Trudi Elliott, Chief Executive, spoke about the importance of the policy context to all those who are passionate about what they do and want to  deliver. 

Luke Coffey, RTPI Young PLanner of the Year; Rosslyn Stuart, Director of Professional Standards; and Tony Crook, Emeritus Professor of Town and Regional Planning also took park. The latter two helped facilitate a discussion on planning capacity and skills.

John Acres, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said afterwards:

“Planners are at the forefront of delivering not just the number of houses we need, but the wider environmental, social and economic benefits of any development. The fact that the Institute and its members have been asked to lead on the consultation shows that planners are valued for what they do." 

Trudi's speech is as follows

"Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Minister, ladies, gentlemen, fellow planners, welcome.

Thank you for making time for this event which will see the launch of the revisions to the national planning policy framework.

The policy context in which planning operates is critical to planners and to all those who want positive and proactive planning. 

Therefore, today is the start of the Royal Town Planning Institute’s detailed consideration of the proposals and of how they will play out in practice - with 11 round table events scheduled across England for our members. 

I would urge other organisations to take this measured and reflective approach.

The Institute is unique in that its 25,000 members are equally spread between the public and the private sector. Planners in all sectors are at the forefront of making any planning system work. 

We will hear from the Prime Minister, followed by the Secretary of State of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We will then have four technical sessions before and after lunch. 

Globally, nationally and locally, the importance of creating places where individuals and communities can flourish, where they have a home they can afford, in a place where they can access jobs and services and be safe and healthy, matters.

It is recognised in the United Nations sustainable development goals which the UK Government is a signatory to and which we must all play our part in delivering.

Planning and housing top of RTPI agenda

RTPI’s Better Planning programme is addressing housing affordability as a critical challenge.

We must address the housing crisis. 

RTPI were hugely encouraged by the publication of the Government’s “Fixing the broken housing market” paper. 

We have made clear in our campaign “16 ways to solve the housing crisis” how important to us this issue is and to solve it across all types and tenures and in all regions.

We share this concern with Government as is illustrated today.

Many of the factors which affect delivery are outside the planning system, but today we are focussing on planning.

More planning permissions are being granted year on year with 335,647 in 2016/17 and 217,350 dwellings built.

The planning system is not just a means for boosting housing supply, but of carefully shaping the location, density, quality and accessibility of development to ensure our villages, towns and cities grow in a truly sustainable way – delivering wider benefits to the economy, health, social fabric and the built and natural environment.

Our ongoing research project on the location of development has mapped over 165,000 planning permissions in 12 English city-regions granted since the NPPF was originally adopted.

RTPI wanted to see a number of areas addressed in the revisions to the NPPF including viability, the 5-year land supply, how we assess need and demand.

RTPI has long argued that viability processes should be clearer and more transparent.

Planning obligations should only be reduced in exceptional circumstances, not to underwrite poor land buying decisions.

Far too much energy and delay has resulted from fights in this area.

With National Planning Forum and UCL RTPI undertook research which shows that local authorities around the country have laid the foundations for getting back into housebuilding to help meet housing need.

65% are already involved in some direct form of housing delivery. This is cause for optimism.

RTPI has a body of solution-focused research on housing and related issues both published and in train. You will find a summary of it available today and on our website.

We know that there are strategic and critical issues that must be addressed at larger than local level.

We have urged strengthening of the requirements around cross authority co-operation.

Our research on Strategic Planning found that strategic cooperation brings major benefits to all of those involved.

But it needs strong political buy in to succeed. We must do better at this too.

City regions and other places can use technology to better plan for the needs of their community. The second strand of RTPI’s Better Planning programme looks at how – both to plan, deliver, then manage it.

RTPI’s public survey in 2014 demonstrated the public appetite for places that are sustainable, that work for people.

Our third better planning work strand is looking at climate change and the central role spatial planning plays in mitigating and adapting to its effects.  Especially for disadvantaged communities, who often feel its impacts most painfully.

To plan well we need local buy in.

Good inclusive design of places so they are liveable in every sense is vital to that public buy in.

Planners can change things, and we need more of them

But we cannot do any of this without resource, we need enough planners.

We know that we need more of them in local authorities and Government has heard and is acting on this message.

We also know that those already in the profession need time for learning and growth.

We must all individually make time for our own continuous personal development.

We need to encourage Councillors tasked with key planning decisions to focus on theirs too.

We absolutely must champion the discipline, the sector, the importance of planning and its role in building the future and preserving what we value environmentally, socially and economically. And its role in providing homes.

But there is a fight for talent as never before.

RTPI’s new President John Acres has as his theme this year passion in planning.

We need that passion from politicians and I think we will see that in a minute, at national and local level

We need that passion from planners and other professionals tasked with making things happen,  

But we also need a policy framework that puts that passion to good and effective use.

Planners across the country along with the Institute have a long history of working constructively with politicians at local and at national level.

We will work with Government, local authorities and all those who want to create great places and solve our housing crisis.

That is how we will see our passion shared by the public for whose benefit we are all in this endeavour."

Details of members' round tables and RTPI's initial analysis here