This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best possible experience. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with this. You can find out more about how we use cookies here. If you would like to know more about cookies, or how you can delete them, click here.

What's next for planning?

Ahead of this year's Convention we asked some of our speakers: What's next for planning?

Here they share their thoughts in a series of short blog posts.


Philip Barnes FRTPI
Group Land and Planning Director, Barratt Development Plc

Planning needs a new focus on providing family homes, around our cities. Throttling back on homes for families, in order to feed the investor appetite for a city centre apartment product, is not enough. Even though these new flats are undoubtedly running alongside a renaissance of many city centres.

Huge numbers of 20/30 somethings are moving to a central urban lifestyle. But within 10 years many will be 40 somethings, looking for a family home with a garden. Development plans looking out 20/30 years, and ignoring this simple demographic reality, will soon require review. This isn't an either/or. We need an eye on both now.

Tony Burton CBE
Convenor, Neighbourhood Planners London

Planning is in the front line of a fast changing world where people and communities are demanding the same level of service as citizens that they have long expected as consumers.  For too long the main dialogue has been between applicant and regulator with "third parties" left on the outside and the public interest entrusted to the representative role of local government.  This model is no longer fit for purpose.  Professional planners, elected councillors and developers need to embrace local communities as equals and the knowledge they have of their area.  Neighbourhood planning is pioneering this path and needs stronger support.  The next generation of planning will see this participatory plan-making complemented by guarantees of early community involvement in development proposals well before they become a planning application; more community control over local Community Infrastructure Levy spending priorities; and a means to challenge the grant of planning consent in conflict with an agreed neighbourhood plan.  The time for citizen-led planning has arrived.

Vishaan Chakrabarti
Founder, PAU

We face three defining, existential challenges: climate change, social inequity and technological advancement, challenges which together are fraying our social and political fabric. Planning must confront these challenges in a synthetic manner—for example strategies that combat climate change must also address inequity and technology. But in confronting these challenges, the meta-narrative for urban planning must be a return to human-centered design, a focus we lost as twentieth century technocrats enamored with the automobile. With new forms of human-centered mobility, from walking to bikes to e-scooters, we have an opportunity to rethink urban public spaces that are, yes, more sustainable and more equitable, but are also more joyful and connected...places that promote innovation through serendipity similar to our most beloved historical cities. Consequently urban planning in this new millennium is approaching its apex of relevance in a new "back to the future" moment, a moment that asks us to marry history with the future.

Malcolm Fraser
Director, Fraser / Livingstone Architects and Chair, Scottish Town Centre Review

There's the old joke about the traveller asking directions, to be told that "If that's where you're going I wouldn't start here."

So with the Planning system: built to deliver single-use zones linked by traffic we've seen the zombies it's produced and tried to retrofit them with nice stuff. Thus the madness of planners fresh from granting an out-of-town shopping disaster insisting on "active ground floor" retail on your town centre residential; or the imposition of a European "urbanist" form that fixates on "proper streets" and demonises the humble cul-de-sac – that nice wee pattern of intimate community.

So, next: we need to build, from the ground up, a new, people-first system based on the utilitarian principles of health and wellbeing – of both us and the world that sustains us, that we are currently trashing – that values density with amenity, sunshine and gathering places, connectivity and walking, repair over new, and the principle of subsidiarity.

Sue Manns FRTPI
Director, Sue Manns Associates, and RTPI Vice President

Planning is for and about people, the spaces and places that are precious to them. However, there are always those that will resist change, whatever form it takes. At present the voices of a minority often dominate the debate; good decisions are based on a range of views.  

As a profession we need to reinvigorate, excite and inspire people across society to engage in the debate about their future, looking beyond the short term to capture the positive opportunities that change can bring. For example, technological changes will affect the way we use places and spaces; advances in manufacturing will change employment patterns; vibrant and lively town centres are those that adapt positively to retail closures; new housing should meet the needs of today and be capable of responding to future changes in lifestyle, energy use, climate etc. Planning is a forward-looking profession and has a responsibility to lead and take ownership of this positive 'conversation'.  

Ojay McDonald
Chief Executive, ATCM

Coping with the demands of a new industrial revolution is what comes next for planning, a revolution that will be more accessible than any other, where anyone with a laptop and Wi-Fi can change the world by building a new killer app as if they were composing a Word Document.

The ONS recently published new data on job automation in England which shows that there are 1.5 million jobs at high risk of automation. Who knows what this is will mean for 'place' and the processes of decentralisation through digitisation. We already see Millennials and Generation Y engaging with places differently thanks to social media.

To add to that, we are living longer and have to deal with the consequences of climate change. Planning must respond to these trends. And let's not forget new forms of mobility, like drones.

So, what's next for planning – change, change and more change!

Stefan Webb
Director of Digitising Planning, and Standards, Future Cities Catapult

We will soon start to see the fruits of early innovation in digitally transforming public planning services, with the London Boroughs of Hackney and Southwark launching new tools (initially designed with Connected Places Catapult) for planning application submissions. With MHCLG now #fixingtheplumbing, I'd envisage more accessible and consistent data being made available for others to build #plantech products and services on.

We are starting to see the private sector begin to make more use of digital technology in planning, with digital-first start ups such as Land Insight, Vu City and Built-ID growing, and planning consultancies such as Troy Planning and Design and Iceni adopting digital tools in their work.

As the data, infrastructure and processes of planning become more digital, I'd expect to see more of the low-value processes in planning becoming automated, freeing planners to plan and increase the speed, transparency and efficiency of the process.

What do you think is next for planning? Be part of the debate on 19 June and don't forget to join the conversation beforehand at #PlanCon19