RTPI calls for new approach to economic analysis to reveal full impact of the value of planning

Major new research into the economic value of planning, conducted on behalf of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) by the University of Glasgow and the University of Sheffield, highlights the need for studies on the costs and benefits of planning to employ a variety of different economic analyses in order to establish the full value of planning.

In The Value of Planning the researchers conclude that we need to develop a greater knowledge of the economic impact of planning and to turn away from what is often a very narrow conception of planning and how markets work in relation to planning activity. A comprehensive, rather than a selective, assessment should include examination of planning’s role in shaping markets and in stimulating economic activity, using the full range of policy instruments available to policy-makers, and the role planning plays in providing certainty which is so important for investors.

The research argues that some studies in the past have failed to assess the ‘costs’ of planning reliably and have neglected its benefits by the very nature of the approach taken to the analysis. As previous research has informed some government policies on planning, it is vital therefore that we take a more wide ranging approach in future. The research also counters the argument used by some critics of planning that less planning equals more economic growth.

Cath Ranson, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said:

“This is a ground breaking study published in our centenary year. Remarkably, given the debates around planning reform in the UK, the Glasgow and Sheffield study represents the only recent and wide-ranging review of research on the economic value of planning. The study shows that we need to use many different branches of economics to capture the true value of planning. Ultimately a better understanding of the way planning can support growth will help to create more economically sustainable and successful places”.

To maximise the value of planning and its role in helping to create places where people want to live, work, relax and invest, we need to recognise the full breadth of planning, including the range of policies that contribute to successful places; generate and share evidence relating to this range of instruments that is useful to policy-makers and practitioners; and develop the policy and practice that helps to maximise the value of planning.

The RTPI is also publishing today Fostering Growth: Understanding and Strengthening the Economic Benefits of Planning – its own research, based on in depth interviews and roundtable discussions with key built environment stakeholders. The paper highlights ways in which the value of planning can be maximised, through examples and case studies from across the UK and Ireland that demonstrate where planning has had a positive economic impact. The paper makes 10 key recommendations to help to create economically successful places in the future.

The two papers form a significant contribution to the case the RTPI will make to all the political parties and to the wider general public in the run up to elections across the UK in 2015-17.