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Councils urged to promote planning

Local authorities are being held back by not affording the planning function a higher position in their corporate structures, the Royal Town Planning Institute has claimed.

A survey undertaken by the RTPI said that in spite of planning’s status as a statutory function, the head of planning is a member of the top management team in less than a tenth of North West councils.

In 90% of councils, planning is two or three tiers down from the chief executive. The RTPI looked at 212 local authorities across London, the South East, the North West, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Nationally, the headline findings were that 23% of local authorities have a head of planning reporting directly to the chief executive, while one in ten local authorities do not have an individual post holder responsible for planning.

A total of 39 councils were surveyed within the region, with those where the planning function reporting directly to the chief executive being Lancaster City Council, South Ribble Borough Council, and Salford City Council.

Victoria Hills, RTPI chief executive, said: “Planning is a powerful lever to deliver almost all areas of focus within an authority’s corporate strategy.

“We urge more council chief executives and portfolio holders to recognise this and put in the right structure so that leaders can make major decisions – be they about education, health or social care – with full view and proper debate of their spatial dimensions, such as housing, transport, green spaces, energy and waste infrastructure.

“Our members tell us that councillors are more likely to respect planning advice from a senior officer from a chief executive’s team. All too often we see a lack of joined-thinking, with investment decisions being made without a holistic perspective that could give good growth outcomes.”

The full report is available to view online, and is to be followed by further research later this year.

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