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Small Project Impact Research (SPIRe) Scheme

About the scheme

As part of its work to promote research into planning, in 2013 the RTPI established a fund to support small-scale research projects. The Small Project Impact Research (SPIRe) Scheme is particularly intended to encourage high quality research projects that have the potential to impact on policy and practice, and to encourage closer collaboration between the RTPI and accredited planning schools.


SPIRe scheme for 2017-18

For the SPIRe scheme in 2017-18, projects will support the RTPI's Better Planning programme.

The Better Planning programme provides practical advice and intelligence to RTPI members and others, in ways which demonstrate how planning is part of the solution to major social, economic and environmental challenges.

The first Better Planning workstream is focusing on housing affordability. As part of this we commissioned research on Planning Risk and Development Finance (see below) which will be published in Spring 2018.

A second invitation to tender will be published later in the year, focusing on strategic planning for city-regions.

SPIRe scheme for 2015

For the SPIRe scheme in 2015, we invited proposals that contribute directly to our understanding of the 'value of planning', interpreted primarily as economicl value, but with recognition of consequences for broader social and environmental outcomes. This priority research area follows an initial June 2014 RTPI paper, The Value of Planning, written by Professor David Adams (University of Glasgow) and Professor Craig Watkins (University of Sheffield). 

Two projects were supported for 2015:

Planning as 'market maker': How planning is used to stimulate development in Germany, France and the Netherlands

Exploring case studies from Hamburg, Lille and Nijmegen, this SPIRe project illustrates how proactive planning, as often utilised by our closest Western European neighbours, can lead to more quanitity and quality of output in the built environment.

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

Dr Alex Lord, Dr Phil O'Brien, Dr Olivier Sykes and Dr John Sturzaker, from the University of Liverpool, analyse the particular planning-realted factors exhibited in these case studies and why they are so successful.

The authors find that when planning is provided with a proactive remit to utilise functions such as upfront investment in infrastructure and land assembly, planning can coordinate the development of the built environment in a way that can facilitate the achievement of social and economic goals.

Planning China's future: How planners contribute to growth and development

This SPIRe project examines evidence from China to show the significant economic, social and environmental value that a robust planning system can bring.

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

Professor Fulong Wu, Dr Fangzhu Zhang and Zheng Wang (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London) find that the firm confidence among planners and political leaders in China that planning can be a leading force in fostering economic growth is largely due to a proactive interpretation of the role of planning in strengthening the economy as well as shaping the market according to the needs of society. It also stems from political support of planning at the highest level.

The report presents strong evidence from the Chinese case that planning and a wide spectrum of associated activities can be supporting growth by stimulating the market for land developments, shaping markets and regulating markets. Through transforming planning practices and enabling planning capacities, planning can play a leading role in generating economic value.

SPIRe projects 2013

The Institute received 45 high-quality applications from planning schools across the UK and Ireland.

The projects supported through the 2013 SPIRe scheme were:

A key result from the 2011 census was that, for the first time in over a hundred years, average household size did not fall between censuses. The census found more people but fewer households than official projections had suggested, indicating that there had been changes in household formation patterns that had not been fully anticipated in the projections. This raises important issue for planning for housing at time when many local authorities are preparing or reviewing local plans in the light of the National Planning Policy Framework and the abolition of regional plans. This project reviews the available evidence on the changes that occurred between 2001 and 2011, identifying local variations as well as the national picture, and presents an assessment of the potential implications for future housing requirements in a concise and accessible form.

The final report, research briefing and accompanying analysis tool for local authorities are available from this project.

Following the abolition of regional plans, a major question is how to effectively undertake strategic planning to support economic growth objectives as well as sustainable development principles. This project examines the potential of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), from a limited start, to become part of a strategic mechanism to plan for growth. The research rerpesents the first comprehensive analysis of the planning roles of LEPs, including a detailed analysis of their Strategic Economic Plans (SEPs). The analysis suggests that LEPs are not a solution to statutory strategic planning at the sub-national level (nor do they claim to be). However, LEPs do have considerable potential to work across different policy areas such as planning, and to bring together different partners as brokers of cross-boundary, strategic issues such as housing and employment.

The final report and research briefing are available from this project.

An interim report is also available from this project.

In recent years, cross-boundary and cross-sectoral planning concepts have become increasingly influential in the strategic planning of housing, population and economic growth. While in some regions this has mapped onto major city regions, innovative spaces in the South East region such as 'Urban South Hampshire', the 'Gatwick-Diamond' and 'Science Vale UK' in southern Oxfordshire reflect very different settlement patterns, administrative arrangements and political contexts. This project examines the governance scales, organisational forms and patterns of leadership across these three sub-regions, and compares and contrasts the efficacy of these diverse arrangements in delivering growth.

The final report and a research briefing are available from this project.

In addition, the RTPI South East region has supported a follow-on project from these researchers, on 'The Role of Planning Cultures and Legacies in Delivering Growth in the South East of England'. This explores the role of past planning decisions and established local 'planning cultures' in shaping present day approaches to planning for growth in the same case study areas.

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

The research identifies innovation in the planning field – where people have tried to do things differently in a wide range of innovative ways. It illustrates how places can be transformed through planning intervention. Through considering a number of case studies it is possible to show how planning can make a difference to economies, environments and livelihoods, and to draw general lessons from these cases for planning policy and practice.

The final report and research briefing are available from this project.

Further information

For further information, please contact: