William Eichler 21 June 2018

Planning functions ‘downgraded’ by councils, planners warn

Planning functions ‘downgraded’ by councils, planners warn image

The planning function has been ‘downgraded’ in over 80% of local authorities, town planners say.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has looked at the management structure of 212 councils across the UK and found 83% put planning two or three tiers down from the chief executive.

They also found the head of planning was a member of the top management team in only 17% of authorities despite the fact that planning is a statutory function.

The head of planning is absent from the top table in 77% of councils in Wales and 94% of councils in Scotland. In London, North West and South East, the corresponding figures are 86%, 90% and 78%.

The RTPI found this contrasted dramatically with Ireland where 78% of councils have the head of planning reporting directly to the chief executive.

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

‘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.’

‘Amid the challenges of Brexit and tight resources, it is all the more important that councils ensure planners are at the heart of corporate decision-making so that their effectiveness to join the dots across complex spending decisions can be maximised,’ Ms. Hills continued.

‘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.’

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