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Planning Horizons

Creating Economically Successful Places

This Planning Horizons project considers the major economic trends that will shape societies in the twenty-first century – from population change, globalisation and competition, to technological change and the increased scarcity of natural resources - and how planners can play a critical role in supporting sustainable economic growth.

The full paper and summary are now available from this project.

The challenges facing twenty-first century societies

The global economy is changing faster than ever. Increased competition, the rise to prominence of economies such as China and India, technological change, flows of financial capital and other factors mean that existing industries and old certainties are being challenged as never before. Such changes may be global, but their impacts are felt locally in and around our towns and cities. In addition, in the wake of the financial crisis and in the face of threats such as climate change, there are increasing debates about the stability of our economies and whether there are environmental limits to growth.

How planners help to create economically successful places

All this means that, in the twenty-first century, what makes an 'economically successful place' goes well beyond a narrow approach to development. The future may be uncertain in many respects, but planning can help places to navigate these challenges. In a fast-changing world, given the pace and scale of the challenges considered in this paper, it is no longer possible for planners or decision-makers merely to 'predict and provide', if it ever was. But this does not mean that there is no role for planning, quite the contrary. In the twenty-first century, it is precisely because of the uncertainties of the future rather than in spite of them that places need to have a vision of their own future.

Alongside other professions, planners have a critical role to play in creating and sustaining successful places – attractive, liveable, accessible, connected, vibrant places that are able to attract people and investment that will be crucial to healthy economies that meet people's needs. Indeed, planners are in a unique position to identify the critical qualities of places that can be built on, keeping in mind current and future generations. In these ways and others, planners then need to be at the forefront of a much broader approach to the economic development of places, helping policy- and decision-makers, and communities themselves, to avoid complacency and prepare for a fast-changing world.

RTPI Centenary Survey results

Alongside this paper, the RTPI commissioned a survey to see what the UK public thinks of their communities and what they think makes for a 'successful place'.

Key results include:

  • People generally rate their local area as a good place to live ('good' 49%, 'excellent' 21%), and 52% think that local services are generally good quality.
  • However, 48% of people think their local area offers too few economic opportunities, 30% think their area has got worse over the past five years, and only 36% think their local economy will improve over the next five years.
  • Further, 25% of people are likely to move away from their local area in the next five years.
  • 61% of people think that the best way to grow their local economy is to invest in local services/amenities and make the area attractive, rather than through recruiting businesses.
  • The most important factors influencing where people live are (percentage of people responding that it is an important factor):
    • Cost of living (64%)
    • Local amenities (60%)
    • Community safety (57%)
    • Green spaces (51%)
    • Walkability (49%)
    • Friends and family (42%)
    • Good transport (42%)
    • Local economy (35%)
    • Diversity of community (32%)
    • High-speed internet (29%)
  • Only 24% think that those people making decisions about development in their (housing, transport, shops and amenities) generally make good decisions, and only 25% think that these decisions are generally well-informed about the area.
  • Similarly, only 23% of people think that these decisions are generally well-coordinated (for example, the links between transport and housing); 34% think they are generally poorly-coordinated.
  • 59% of people don't feel they have enough say in how their local area develops – but only 23% of them have responded to a local planning application or planning decision in their area in the last three years.
  • 79% feel that the community needs a stronger voice in planning, as opposed to leaving planning decisions more to developers (which was supported by just 8% of people).
  • 43% of people think that national leaders are unprepared for the major economic challenges facing the UK; for local leaders (for local areas), the figure is 41%.

Results based on a nationally-representative survey of 2,083 UK adults conducted on behalf of the RTPI by Populus, 22nd-23rd October 2014.