Is the planning system holding back economic growth?

I have been quoted (below) giving my reaction to the report Inexpensive Progress which is released today. The report was carried out by Vivid Economics, and commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). To access the report, and to see additional comments from Professor Dieter Helm (University of Oxford), Stephen Joseph (Campaign for Better Transport) and Liz Peace (British Property Federation) click here.

The report was commissioned in response to the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which proposes cutting down 1,000 pages of planning policy into 50. The rationale is that the planning laws as they are constrain growth, and by cutting down planning laws you will encourage more development and so employment.

This report finds that there has been little former research into the costs and benefits of planning laws. There is definitely not enough empirical evidence to say that the NPPF will encourage growth, in fact it is unlikely to have any major effect on growth or employment.

Further consideration and research must be done on market values and non-market values, on the social, distributional and environmental benefits of the planning system, and on the cross boundary issues linked to the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies.

Tom Burke CBE, Environmental Policy Adviser to Rio Tinto and a Visiting Professor at Imperial and University Colleges, London, says: “This report is a timely antidote to the government’s planning policy which is a toxic conjunction of incompetence and ideology. Turning 1,000 pages of detailed planning guidance into 50 pages of ambiguous text is licence for planning lawyers to print money. Instead of the current speedy and predictable passage through the planning system developers will be faced with the uncertainty and cost of the courts. This will slow rather than accelerate growth. Since there is no evidence to support it, it is clear that the real driver for this foolish policy is simply de-regulatory mania of the nastier parts of the Conservative party.”

About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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