Nick Raynsford

Raynsford: Planning system leads to poor quality outcomes

A review of the planning system by former housing minister Nick Raynsford has challenged the current approach to reforms, saying changes have been “built on the back of assertion rather than evidence”, leaving it “powerless to defend the public interest”.

Raynsford is currently heading up a taskforce conducting a review into the planning system, with the full report due to be published this autumn. However, yesterday he revealed his interim views, particularly suggesting continued deregulation was leading to very poor quality outcomes.

The Raynsford Review of Planning makes nine provisional recommendations for reforms to the planning system including giving the public a greater voice the planning process. The report claims that persistent changes to planning legislation have left the system powerless to defend the public interest.

Other recommendations include establishing a statutory definition of planning which would regulate development based on its potential for achieving “social, economic and cultural wellbeing” and setting a legal obligation for the government to plan for the needs of future generations.

The review, of which the Town & Country Planning Association provides the secretariat, is being led by a cross-section of built environment professionals and has engaged with over 1,000 people over the past 12 months, including many members of the public.

Raynsford said: “The planning system is no longer capable of shaping the places we need to secure people’s long-term health and wellbeing. We need a new approach with people at the heart of decisions and system which meet the growing challenges of housing affordability climate change and economic transformation.”

Expert view

Steve Bell TurleyStephen Bell, senior director and head of Turley’s northern planning team, responds to Nick Raynsford’s claim that the planning system is “confronting a major crisis”.

We recognise some of the frustrations identified in the Raynsford Review, however it is not the right time for a comprehensive reboot of the system.

From our interactions with clients and local authorities across the North, the desire is for clarity and refinement, not fundamental review. We remain in a time of prevailing economic confidence, as evidenced by development activity across our core northern cities, and planning upheaval will only serve to impede such activity.

We share some of the sentiments expressed by Town & Country Planning Association but the focus should be on making the current system work better – to deliver the right housing in the right places, to support the economy as we face uncertain times, and ensure that we provide the infrastructure needed to underpin both.

We would call on the TCPA to refine its ambition and focus on what is most important right now. In this respect, we are supportive of the concept of defining ‘rights’ including everyone’s right to a decent home. These fundamentals should be driving the short-term future of the planning system.

The time will come for a more encompassing review but we see best value in promoting measures that channel the planning system towards positive and deliverable outcomes, rather than aspirational ones that will take many years to shape, debate and realise.

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