Planning function not valued in majority of councils

A new survey from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has found that the planning function has been relegated to lower positions in the corporate structure of local authorities across the UK.

The organisation has reported that 83 per cent of councils of the 212 researched put planning two or three tiers down from the chief executive, ‘diluting its importance as a strategic corporate function’, with only 17 per cent of UK councils having the head of planning as a member of the top management team.

Separate RTPI has also revealed that many local authority planning services are not able to effectively recruit and retain staff to meet service objectives and that resources are being diverted from place-shaping activities to core statutory functions.

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