The Royal Town Planning Institute(RTPI) has welcomed the findings of the report published by the National Audit Office(NAO), Planning for New Homes, which flagged up many critical issues, includes highlighting the fall in spending by local authorities on planning functions and the current skills shortages in local authority planning teams.
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Ian Tant MRTPI, RTPI President, said: ‘The RTPI has long campaigned for the Government to adequately resource local authority planning teams to deliver local plans and help deliver its targets for quality homes and infrastructure. Our own report published last week – Serving the public interest? The reorganisation of planning services in an era of reluctant outsourcing – found that under-resourcing, coupled with reforms that have lessened planning’s strategic role, have relegated planning to a largely reactive, regulatory function in many local authorities, undermining planners’ ability to deploy professional discretion and proactive planning.’
‘This is further underlined by today’s report by the NAO that core funding for planning functions in local authorities has fallen by a whopping 37.9% in the past seven years. The fact that spending has only dropped by 15% is a testament to the planners themselves who have raised significantly more direct income to help plug the gap. There is a huge resourcing issue. The RTPI has been taking measures to diversify and increase talent coming into planning through a number of initiatives including government-supported bursaries, and later this year we will be launching a Chartered town planning apprenticeship. We also support the NAO findings that the government needs to continue to work closely with industry bodies to identify skills gaps in local authorities. However, filling those gaps will require resources.’
Victoria Hills MRTPI, RTPI Chief Executive, said: ‘We welcome the NAO’s findings that to create new homes and places for people to live, infrastructure such as transport, healthcare, schools and utilities must be in place. This will require government departments to align their investment strategies with local authorities’ infrastructure plans. It is also why we are calling for Chief Planners to be represented at the highest decision-making levels of local government – our research showed that shockingly 83% of local authorities are now without a chief planner at the top table. Their reinstatement would be an important step towards providing the necessary join up between investment strategies at local government level. We were delighted that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government endorsed this view in his speech at one of our recent events.’