The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee is urging Government to commit additional funding to planning before their reforms are introduced, according to The Future of the Planning System in England published today.
The cross-party committee of MPs strongly backed the RTPI’s proposed £500 million over four years funding injection for English planning, recommending, “the Ministry should now seek to obtain a Treasury commitment for an additional £500 million over four years for local planning authorities. Providing this certainty of funding should precede the introduction of the Planning Bill.”
The Committee’s report found that planning is currently under-resourced and that proposed reforms would put further pressure on the system. “Two themes emerged in our evidence regarding the resourcing of the planning system. First, that Local Planning Authorities do not have enough resources. Second, that the Government’s proposed reforms would increase the needs for particular skills that in turn would need further funding. Nobody argued that the current level funding for LPAs was adequate.”
RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills commented “this is a thorough and comprehensive report by the Select Committee. As we have emphasised to Government, resourcing for planning is inadequate and reforms will place further demands on them unless this issue is addressed. The Committee is entirely correct to state that a major programme of reform is now contingent on government first ensuring the resources are in place. I applaud the call for Treasury to commit now to putting this in place.”
The Committee also recommended that “Government must undertake and publish a resources and skills strategy in advance of primarily legislation, to clearly explain how the various skill needs of the planning system will be met.” Ms Hills said, “we agree that the skills and resourcing strategy should precede the bill. As the committee also noted, the RTPI have called for further support for our flagship apprenticeships, as well as for chief placemakers to be chartered planners.”
The Committee was “unpersuaded” that a zonal system would drive the desired outcomes, but set out recommendations for how government’s proposals could be refined. The report referenced RTPI Head of Policy Richard Blyth’s oral evidence that Renewal Areas were “too simplistic” and agreed that the needs of different areas required further consideration. Ms Hills commented that, “the committee’s recommendations for further nuance within the zones is common sense. As the report noted, we think Growth Areas have the potential to be excellent enablers of development, but suburbs and industrial areas require very different approaches.”
The Committee further recommended that “Government set out how the valuable role of local councillors will be maintained in the planning system,” expressing disappointment that this relationship had not been addressed more thoroughly within the White Paper. The report further suggested that a stronger evidence base is needed to understand community involvement in planning. Ms Hills said that “local elected officials play an important role in the planning process, which is why we are shortly launching the new Politicians in Planning Network (PiPN). Community confidence in planning is essential, and the Committee is right to highlight the role of both technology and adequate resources in ensuring local involvement.”
On design, the committee quoted RTPI findings that 87% of planners feel they need further powers to reject poor design quality. The report also set out a pathway for addressing build-out rates, as well as concerns around a single new Infrastructure Levy and the abolition of duty to cooperate without a replacement. Due to the significant quantity of evidence around Permitted Development Rights (PDRs), the Committee has opened a new inquiry on the topic.