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National and regional research projects

The RTPI is engaged in research that addresses policy and practice issues relevant to specific nations and regions of the UK and Ireland, but which may have broader applicability to other countries and areas.

RTPI South East and North West - Investing in Delivery

In 2015, RTPI North West supported by the RTPI research team commissioned the consultancy Arup to conduct research on cuts to local planning departments in the region. This was published in October 2015 as Investing in Delivery. The research found that there have been significant reductions in local planning authority budgets and staffing since 2010, and although the time taken to determine applications is often still good, there are increasingly delays and uncertainty in receiving pre-application advice, S106 agreements and discharge of conditions, resulting in delays bringing forward development.

Building on the previous research, this project will further investigate the resourcing, staffing pressures and delivery structures in local planning authorities, this time in the South East and North West of England.

The project will establish the current position in local planning departments particularly with regard to positive and proactive planning and development, and how this might be strengthened. This is particularly important for these two very active housing and growth regions, but the findings and recommendations should be of broader relevance to other regions facing similar pressures.

Arup have been appointed to carry out this research. The final report is expected by Summer 2018.

RTPI Cymru - The Value of Planning in Wales

At the RTPI Cymru Wales Planning Conference in June 2016, Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, set out five 'asks' of the planning system and those involved in delivering it, including the need to recognise the value of planning and the economic value that creates.

This research project is intended to take forward this challenge by developing and testing a model or framework for capturing the economic, social and environmental value delivered by local authority planning. This is especially important given reduced resourcing for local authorities and the increasing pressures on local authority planning departments in particular, and also the context of the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.

The commissioning client for this project is the RTPI Policy, Practice and Research team in London and RTPI Cymru. This project is kindly supported by Welsh Government.

Local authority direct provision of housing in England

This research project identifies the practical ways in which local authorities in England are engaging in the direct provision of housing in their areas.

The research describes the motivations and methods of local authorities providing housing at a time of significant pressures on budgets. It finds a variety of innovative methods that have been developed by local authorities seeking to maximise their resources while meeting social and economic need.

Professor Janice Morphet and Dr Ben Clifford at The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, led this project, commissioned by the National Planning Forum and the RTPI.

This project is part of the Better Planning programme on housing affordability.

RTPI South West - Research into the delivery and affordability of housing

RTPI South West commissioned research into the delivery and affordability of housing in the region. The research expands knowledge and understanding about how planning practice can deliver affordable housing, through an examination and comparison of recent large-scale housing developments.

The research includes an analysis of a range of data sources to track affordability and housing supply in the South West, in comparison with other parts of England and the country as a whole, and an investigation of six case studies of large-scale developments in the region. Heriot Watt University and Three Dragons are conducting this work.

This work is part of the RTPI's programme on Better Planning for Housing Affordability.

RTPI Cymru - The Process for Developing Robust Housing Evidence for Local Development Plans in Wales

RTPI Cymru commissioned a research study by the School of Planning and Geography Cardiff University to consider the process for developing robust housing projections for Local Development Plans in Wales. The research was carried out in response to some local planning authorities' uncertainty and concerns about how much flexibility they have to interpret household projections.

The project makes several recommendations on the delivery of further training and skills so that local planning authorities and other stakeholders can interpret, refine and adapt household projections data; the preparation of a good practice guide on the use of household projections in preparing Local Development Plans; minor amendments and clarifications to Planning Policy Wales; and the preparation of a set of Welsh Government local authority level household projections, specifically for the purposes of land use planning that utilise longer-term trend data.

The full report is available here, along with a research briefing.

RTPI South West region - The Potential of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the Planning Process

This research examines Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) in the South West of England in relation to delivering economic growth and their engagement with strategic planning and sustainable development.

The research was conducted for the RTPI South West region by Chris Balch, Plymouth University, Mary Elkington, Figura Planning, and Gareth Jones, Hardisty Jones Associates.

The full report and summary briefing are now available from this project.

The RTPI research report 'Planning for Growth: The Role of LEPs' published in March 2014, identified that LEPs did not have a clearly defined role in the formal planning process but that many were exploring different planning roles. This research, focused on the South West region, considers the nature and extent of the mechanisms being employed to achieve strategic planning, the extent to which different business sectors have been supported, and the growth and jobs that are being created as a result.

RTPI Planning Aid England West Midlands region - Support for Community-led Planning

Planning Aid England (PAE) provides free, independent and professional advice on town and country planning issues to community groups and individuals who cannot afford to pay a planning consultant.

In order to expand its outreach and capacity building services in relation to planning, PAE is interested in identifying successful examples of support for community-led planning (not limited to neighbourhood planning), as well as learning from the challenges that have arisen from the current emphasis on 'localism'. The core question underlying this research is how we might increase community engagement in planning in a time of austerity. The RTPI commissioned the University of Reading for this project.

A briefing is now available from this project.

The objectives of the project are to:

  • Identify the awareness of and support for community-led planning by local planning authorities, focusing on the West Midlands region;
  • Identify the challenges and barriers to community-led planning;
  • Review the value to local planning authorities and localities when communities and local authorities engage in community-led planning;
  • Identify good practice and develop recommendations.

RTPI North West region - Investing in Delivery

This research examines the resourcing of local planning authorities in the North West of England, whether a lack of resources is impacting on growth and development, and what can be done to respond to these pressures.

The research was conducted by Arup, the global engineering, design and planning company, and commissioned by the RTPI North West region.

The research included a literature review and data analysis, a survey sent to all North West local planning authorities, telephone and face to face interviews, and focus group sessions with public and private sector participants. Over 40 organisations participated in the research.

The full report is available here, along with a research briefing.

RTPI South East region - The Role of Planning Cultures and Legacies in Delivering Growth in the South East of England

This research, by Dave Valler, Oxford Brookes University, and Nick Phelps, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, explores the role of past planning decisions and established local 'planning cultures' in shaping present day approaches to planning for growth in three case study areas in the South East region, namely South Hampshire, the Gatwick Diamond and Oxford/Oxfordshire.

The full report and a summary briefing are now available from this research.

The research has been funded by the RTPI South East region.

The research builds on a previous project, funded under the RTPI's Small Impact Research (SPIRe) scheme, which investigated the efficacy of governance arrangements of planning for housing and employment growth in these sub-regions.

These case studies suggest that long-established planning cultures can exert a significant influence on development. In these areas, the incremental solutions adopted over the past 50 years may have reached their limits. Breaking out of these legacies may mean appealing to a new sense of the areas people relate to and a much broader constituency.

RTPI Ireland - Developing a Planning Research Agenda for Ireland

This project sets out a framework for developing a research agenda for planning in Ireland. It focuses on the kind of research which helps planners and policymakers to develop and revitalise Ireland's towns, cities and rural areas.

This research was commissioned by RTPI Ireland and conducted by Brendan O'Sullivan, Jonathan Hall, William Brady and Eimear Murphy at the Centre for Planning, Education and Research, University College Cork.

The full report and a summary briefing are now available for this project.

The primary goal of a future planning research agenda should be to ensure that sufficient and appropriate evidence and data is available to support the work of planners in the pursuit of proper planning and sustainable development in Ireland.

The planning research agenda should recognise that academic, applied and commercial research in planning are all crucial components of evidence-led planning in Ireland. Academic research in planning should be more closely aligned to the needs of practice and its outputs should be more easily available to the practitioner community. Priority should be given to research that addresses the core concerns of planning itself and especially planning practice.

These include: transparency and accountability in planning decisions in the post-Mahon era; the relationships between planning, market behaviour and employment-led development, the integration of spatial planning with national and regional priorities; and the crucial contribution that planning must make to strategic decisions about infrastructure, water and waste, energy and landscape.

Framing the on-going priorities for the planning research agenda should be the joint responsibility of a number of agencies in the public, professional and academic sectors.

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