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What planning says about waiting for the doctor

04 November 2015 Author: Richard Blyth

On Christmas Eve last year, when I was gratefully attending my GP surgery with a torn ligament in my ankle, The Guardian reported a “6.45 wait at one Surrey practice for appointments”:

Rebecca Collins, 33, said: “The only way to get an appointment for that day is to queue at 6.45 am… I’ve queued three times in the last four weeks.”

The Guardian reported that the Sunbury health centre was designed for 6,000 patients but is now serving 19,000 “with new housing expected to increase that number by 4,000.” The health centre “complained of the council approving new housing without consulting the surgery” ('Pre-dawn queue highlights pressures on surgeries, say GPs', The Guardian, 24th December 2014).

In other news, various think tanks have been calling for the removal, or at least the erosion of, the Metropolitan Green Belt (MGB) round London. It so happens that Sunbury is in the MGB and is exactly the kind of place one could expect to see a lot more housing if policies on green belts change.

The issue of health care seems to me to be one of the big questions which those opposing green belts need to answer.

At a conference on planning and health in East Anglia last year I was told that there is no direct government money for constructing new health premises in growing settlements in that region. The NHS recommends that developer contributions are sought instead. You can see that in an area with a growing economy and population this is a serious situation.

But in a country where successive governments have planned the economy on the assumption that people would move to jobs, not vice versa, this is even more problematic. How can government economic policy work if everyone is expected to remain with their current GP for life?

I am all for land value capture, but assuming it can cater for everything required is quite risky.

The standard response from those seeking to dismantle the planning of land use is that the land value generated by granting planning permission is so great that all the community’s needs will easily be met if only 'the planners' would let people build anywhere.

I am all for land value capture, but assuming it can cater for everything required is quite risky. It depends on a host of considerations:

  • The price of land in the first place
  • The price of homes in the locality
  • The level of mainstream funding  for infrastructure
  • Whether affordable housing is included.

The RTPI is embarking on a general look at land value capture issues and their importance for good planning, and is interested in working with interested parties on this question. We had a letter published in the Guardian earlier in this year which focussed on the importance of this issue.

All of which serves to make what should be an obvious point even more apparent: it's not just about where we put the housing.


Richard Blyth

Richard Blyth

Head of Policy, Practice and Research, RTPI - @RichardBlyth7