RTPI study on European planning and housing

A new study has been released by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) that looks at lessons from Europe on how to promote positive developments to assist in addressing housing needs, focussing on addressing ‘Nimby’-ism through up-front investment, and shows how ‘markets for land and property, when left to operate without intervention, are inherently incapable of delivering either the quantity or quality of places needed in the UK’. 

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) writes:
New studies from Europe show how France, Germany and the Netherlands have successfully tackled housing and regeneration by using planning skills and tools to stimulate not just regulate development in a way that is markedly different from the UK, says the RTPI.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Liverpool have identified five specific tactics – seldom used in the UK – that have led to faster and better development, especially housing development, in Western Europe:

  • upfront infrastructure investment to shape future development;
  • this investment builds support for urban extensions, so tackling ‘NIMBYism’;
  • land assembly and readjustment whereby an overarching body actively seeks out and temporarily pools together private development rights
  • strong planning institutions to coordinate this development;
  • regional coalition-building and strategic planning across administrative boundaries to reflect functional economic areas.

Michael Harris, Head of Research at the RTPI, said: ‘The experience in Europe shows that planning tools such as upfront infrastructure provision and land readjustment are essential to building the kind of places with access to jobs, good infrastructure and green spaces, at the kind of scale and density required to tackle the UK’s pressing housing crisis. We aren’t making enough use of them in the UK.  Planning is so much more than just about regulating the use of land, but somehow this has become the dominant thinking here and has led to the perception that planning is anti-growth, cumbersome and bureaucratic. This paper offers timely and powerful evidence that when used in a more proactive and positive way, planning can shape better development and is one of the most powerful unused weapons we have to support the UK economy and improve quality of life.’

The study explains how the markets for land and property, when left to operate without intervention, are inherently incapable of delivering either the quantity or quality of places needed in the UK for sustainable economic growth.  In-depth case studies from Hamburg, Lille and Nijmegen illustrate how planning can overcome market failure and deliver beneficial economic outcomes for people and places. In all three cases, the planning system plays an enterprising role in negotiating with, shaping, and stimulating the market. In particular, its intervention as a ‘first mover’ to animate the development process in large, cross-boundary or problematic projects through the use of the above mentioned tactics has enhanced the certainty and preconditions for private investment.

The RTPI-commissioned study ‘Planning as ‘market maker’: How planning is used to stimulate development in Germany, France and the Netherlands’ has been undertaken by Dr Alex Lord and Dr Phil O’Brien at University of Liverpool. It is funded through the RTPI’s Small Projects Impact Research (SPIRe) scheme.

Read the full report

View the press release

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