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 research provides an antidote to what the late Sir Peter Hall famously wrote about in his book Great Planning Disasters (some of which actually turned out to be more successful than was initially the case).
The final report and research briefing are now available from this project.
This research was conducted for the RTPI by Professor Geoff Vigar, Dr Paul Cowie, and Emeritus Professor Patsy Healey OBE, at the Global Urban Research Unit, Newcastle University.
This research shows how innovative the planning sector can be when given the opportunity, freedom and resources. The problem is that this does not happen as often as it could, or should. Even with the recent championing of localism, England in particular still has one of the most centralised planning systems in the world. In addition, recent policy decisions have resulted in removal of much of the strategic planning capacity from sub-national institutions. This research should be seen as providing more evidence for the greater devolution of planning powers to the lowest possible level. This will allow joined-up, long-term planning of the types which have been highlighted in the research.
By devolving more strategic planning powers away from Whitehall in particular there will also be opportunities for the planning process to be used to tackle wider societal challenges: ageing, economic growth and climate change for example, not just directly through the built environment but indirectly by building in joined up service delivery. Further, such devolution would allow planners to develop tailored solutions which recognise the cultural and social context in which planning decisions are made, and to engage the communities affected by the changes.
This devolution of powers must also be accompanied by devolution of resources. The case studies highlighted in this research illustrate that a critical factor in the success of any innovation is continuity of vision and leadership. This can only happen if there is continuity of resources.
The research was commissioned through the RTPI's Small Project Impact Research (SPIRe) Scheme, which encourages high quality research projects that have the potential to impact on policy and practice.