Chief executives of local councils in England should elevate their Chief Planning Officer or Head of Planning to the most senior level of decision making in the corporate structure, the RTPI urges today at the Local Government Association Conference.
Planning is the one function that can help deliver almost all the key areas within an authority’s corporate strategy.
Planners themselves should gain political nous and stronger ability to articulate a vision for growth in order to exert more influence within the authorities they serve, says Victoria Hills, RTPI Chief Executive, as she launches the second part of a study into the corporate and strategic influence of planning in local authorities.
HOPE: Heads of Planning Everywhere
Ms Hills also announced that the RTPI will launch HOPE: Heads of Planning Everywhere, an annual summit of heads of planning, from 2020.
Victoria Hills says:
“To ramp up the conversation, I’ll use the convening role of the RTPI to bring together a group of the largest Heads of Planning chiefs from across England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, in an annual meeting, commencing in 2020, following the launch of the RTPI’s 2020-2030 Corporate Strategy.
“We’ll discuss best practice, making the case for resourcing planning and the important role of putting planning at the heart of local government delivery for the quality places that people want to live in."
Corporate influence of planning: new evidence
In 2018 the RTPI revealed that only 23% of the 212 local authorities it investigated in the UK had a head of planning that reported directly to the Chief Executive.
It also found that 9% of local authorities had no clear role assigned to the head of the planning service.
A follow-up study in 2019 conducted 15 in-depth interviews with current and past local government senior management staff.
It confirms that decades of sidelining planning’s importance as a strategic function within local government has reduced many councils’ ability to advance their corporate agenda and tackle social, economic and environmental challenges effectively.
The report praises Plymouth City Council’s corporate strategy and Ceredigion County Council’s development group for putting planning leadership and expertise at the heart of the of corporate investment and development programmes.
Victoria Hills says:
“Planning is the one function that can help deliver almost all the key areas within an authority’s corporate strategy. We urge all council chiefs and portfolio holders to recognise this and put in the right structure so that leaders can make major decisions with full view and proper debate of their spatial dimensions such as housing, transport, green spaces, energy and waste infrastructure.“To restore the status of planning, council planners and planning teams must also be able to articulate the value of place-making better and show more robustly how they can help to achieve multiple council objectives.”
The RTPI is calling for new legislation to follow Scotland’s example to make Chief Planning Officer a statutory function within local authorities in England.
The Institute also wants to see Chief Planning Officers become more involved with accredited planning schools in planning education and career development.
RTPI's Chief Planning Officers: Report 2 can be downloaded here