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RTPI calls on the government to go further on infrastructure planning reforms

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has welcomed many of the government’s proposed reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) process in England, but called on ministers to move beyond procedural reforms to ensure that infrastructure can deliver a net zero future whilst driving economic growth.

According to the Institute’s consultation response, released today, government proposals have the ability to speed up the NSIP consenting process, improve the pre-application and post-consent stages, and put funding arrangements for the Planning Inspectorate, local authorities, and statutory consultees on a more stable footing.

However, the Institute warned that the government’s future strategy for the NSIP regime will need to go beyond simply identifying what infrastructure is required. It will need to provide significant spatial guidance on where infrastructure should be built and connected in order to establish a more comprehensive understanding of our built environment and rapidly and effectively achieve net zero.

The Institute suggested:

  • New National Policy Statements should be updated at least every 5 years, with National Policy Statements and the National Infrastructure Strategy providing a clear spatial planning framework for infrastructure.
  • Resourcing the Planning Inspectorate needs to become a greater focus of the Government’s capacity and capability strategy for planning.
  • Government should explore options for more participatory approaches to community engagement, creating a more level playing field between applicants and communities and reducing the delays and costs associated with local opposition.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI said: “These proposed reforms are a step in the right direction for our nation’s infrastructure, but must go further if they are to deliver a coordinated spatial planning framework, boosting the economy and meet government’s net zero ambitions.

“Ultimately, their success will depend on the ability to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of experienced planners to deliver these reforms. Planning Officers are the hardest occupation for local authorities to recruit and retain, with public sector resourcing becoming a chronic concern among planners. If we’re going to ensure proposed reforms deliver for the country, we will need sufficient resources to enact them.”

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