Research challenges planning as barrier growth



New research produced on behalf of the National Trust (NT) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), with the RSPB, has explored the intricacies of the economic impact of planning.


The research, published under the title ‘Inexpensive Progress?’ (which borrows its title from a poem by John Betjeman) aims to answer the question at the heart of debate surrounding the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – ‘Is the planning system a brake on growth?’


Produced by independent economic consultants Vivid Economics, the report highlights just how little policymakers and stakeholders actually know about the likely costs and benefits of the NPPF. However, it does conclude that deregulation of the planning system is unlikely to guarantee the sort of short-term growth that the Government seeks: ‘it is unlikely that the draft NPPF will have much effect on growth or employment in the short run’. The report also concludes that too little has been done to quantify the benefits – economic, social and environmental – of good planning


CPRE commented: ‘While a few studies have identified costs in some sectors, these generally do not take account of the benefits and there is no evidence that planning has large, economy-wide effects on productivity or employment. The NPPF as drafted is therefore unlikely to have much effect on growth and could be damaging to national wellbeing in the long run.’


The Trust called for more assessment into the likely effects of the draft NPPF, and said it would be ‘a mistake in our view to pin planning reform so closely to the Plan for Growth. Planning requires more than just an economic consideration – it serves to balance the economy, the environment, and our social needs.’

The main conclusions from the report include:


· the NPPF is unlikely to have any positive effect on growth or employment in the short run. Given the importance of the planning system, it is desirable the NPPF’s impact is closely monitored after it is implemented;


· it is difficult to quantify the costs of planning system and rigorously isolate the effects of planning versus other influences, but for particular impacts of the planning system robust estimates of gross costs of the planning system are available;


· the value of the ‘benefits’ of the planning system are less well understood. Much more research needs to take place to quantify the social, distributional and environmental benefits of the planning system;


· information on market prices could play a valuable role in plan-making, but only if there is a feasible way of complementing this with information on the ‘nonmarket values’ of land (which include the value of the environmental services provided);


· it is particularly important to ensure that cross boundary issues continue to be addressed following the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies.

Copies of the report have been sent to Ministers, Peers, MPs and key policy contacts in the hope it will reinforce concerns over the NPPF ahead of its publication, due by the end of March. With the Budget falling on 21 March, there are fears that Government may choose to publish the draft NPPF on Budget day or just before – simultaneously reinforcing the link between the planning system and the Plan for Growth, and burying publication in a busy news cycle.


Download the report at: LINK


CPRE Press Release: LINK

NT Planning Article : LINK

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