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£500m investment in planning can help government achieve climate and levelling up aims

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is calling on the government to provide the English planning system with funding of £500m over four years, which will facilitate its efforts to tackle the climate crisis and level up the country.

Next month the government will set out its investment priorities in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will determine how public funds are used to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Spending Review, the RTPI would like to see greater funds directed to the English planning system, total expenditure on which has fallen by 29% since 2009-10, meaning local authorities are spending just £5.50 per resident annually on planning policy.

An extra £500m for the planning system over four years can help rebuild our communities as we look to recover from the pandemic.

This is because planning influences all aspects of life including access to economic opportunity, housing, public health, access to green space and transport. These are the same factors that will determine the success of the government’s levelling up agenda and ministers should therefore consider how planning can inform its flagship policy.

This Spending Review is also crucial as it comes in the immediate run up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow. The eyes of the world will be on the UK and in particular what the outcome of COP26 is. However, as the host country the UK must lead by example and the government’s commitments in the Spending Review can set the tone for the event.

A survey we carried out earlier this year found that just 17% of RTPI members in the UK felt the country’s planning system or policy framework was well-equipped enough to deal with the climate crisis.

Funding Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) adequately can help the country’s response to the climate crisis. Issues such green infrastructure, low-emissions transport and flood defenses are core issues for the planning profession. A relatively small investment of £67m over four years would deliver the equivalent of one planner to work exclusively on climate proofing policy and development management in each local authority.

This £67m pot is one of nine funds proposed by the RTPI which would feed into the overall £500m Planning Delivery Fund that we are asking for. Other pots are listed below:

  • Plan Making Fund £170 million
  • Design Fund £81 million
  • Monitoring Fund £67 million
  • Digital Transformation £46 million
  • Placemaking Fund £100 million
  • Jointworking Fund £15 million
  • Public Engagement £50 million
  • Climate Action £67 million
  • Capacity Building £17 million


Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI, said: “The forthcoming Spending Review will be one of the most important in years. A combination of factors such as the climate crisis, Covid-19 recovery and the government’s levelling up plans mean that every penny must count.

“We are asking the government to provide £500m over four years as we see the planning system as a key lever in addressing all of these issues.

“With a well-funded planning system the government can realise its ambitions to create a more level society whether it be through more housing, better and greener transport or vibrant communities. The planning system can also be the first line of defense in the country’s tackling of the climate crisis.

“With this funding the government can acknowledge the planning system has the potential to help fulfill some of the most pressing issues of the day.”

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