Report sets out UK planning system priorities post Covid-19

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A digital planning system is crucial to prepare for a sustainable economic recovery in England post Covid-19, according to a new report by the RTPI

The new report, ‘Priorities for Planning Reform in England, comes ahead of the government’s forthcoming Planning White Paper and sets out five recommendations for how the planning system can be part of the solution to the government’s objectives.

The report welcomes the government’s plans for reforms aimed at delivering secure and affordable housing, high-quality sustainable development, and a more efficient and accessible planning system. However, also warns of the risks of deregulation through greater permitted development rights and increased US-style zoning.

A stronger plan-led system

Chief executive of the RTPI, Victoria Hills, said: “This report aims to highlight the value of strategic, proactive planning in a sustainable economic recovery post Covid-19 and beyond.

“Poorly planned developments create significant cost for occupiers, local communities, infrastructure providers, wider society and the environment and many of these issues have become increasingly visible during the lockdown period.

“I urge policymakers to take heed of the recommendations in this report and work constructively with the RTPI to create a strong plan-led system for the future.”

Planning system recommendations

The recommendations in the report include:

  • Investing in places by properly resourcing planning
  • Making the role of chief planning officer a statutory position within every local authority
  • Launching a major grants programme to stimulate affordable housebuilding
  • Urges the government to adopt a more holistic approach to planning by prioritising decarbonisation and climate resilience, design and beauty, connectivity and accessibility, wellbeing and public health and economic growth alongside housebuilding.
  • Calls for a clear direction on strategic planning and an infrastructure-first approach to create beautiful, sustainable places
  • Technological innovation should be harnessed to foster more efficient and inclusive planning, building upon innovations by planners under the Covid-19 lockdown.

In a letter to housing minister Chris Pincher, Hills said all the recommendations in the report align closely with or go beyond the government’s own objectives and are now even more pertinent given the unprecedented challenges the country will face post lockdown.

In the coming months, the RTPI will follow this up with a detailed paper on how planning should respond to the impacts of Covid-19 and ensure a sustainable economic recovery.

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