What does 'good' look like in the planning system?

14 Oct 2019

Policy area: Planning

Ian Fletcher, Director of Policy, British Property Federation

From strategic vision to the detail of deciding individual applications, planning is at the heart of creating great places. Therefore, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the government is reported to be exploring what ‘good’ looks like in the planning system and how performance can be measured.

As an industry, we’re pretty clear about what a successful planning department would look like. It would have an up-to-date local plan, which is meeting its housing needs. It would work closely with neighbouring councils. It would be proactive in engaging with key stakeholders, anticipating land use needs and economic and social trends. And it would meet target times, using planning performance agreements in complex cases.

On the other hand, measuring performance is more difficult to define. However, if the government decided to measure planning performance, certain conditions need to be met.

First, councils, planners and developers must have a conversation about what matters. With limited resource and competing demands, we need to be open about stakeholder expectations and priorities.

Second, it’s vital that any measurement is simple and does not add burdens onto planning departments. It would be counterproductive to create measures that draw resources away from planners’ work.

And third, it is essential that any measurement looks at planning holistically and does not give too much weight to any one aspect. We must avoid a system that incentivises authorities to plough resources into one part of the system to the detriment of other planning functions.

In sum, planning is key to delivering thriving communities and local economies, and developers are prepared to pay for service improvements.  It’s vital though that extra fees will go into building a better planning service.

This article originally appeared in the Municipal Journal.