‘Planning system increasing inequality’

Raynsford Review calls on government to quickly act to restrict permitted development.


Former housing minister Nick Raynsford has warned that planning has been reduced to a “chaotic patchwork” of responsibilities not compatible with promoting the health, wellbeing and civil rights of communities – stating in a landmark assessment of the English planning system.

The report says that, while planning has potential to make people’s lives better, the opportunity has been affected by deregulation.

It calls on government to quickly act to restrict permitted development, which allows the conversion of commercial buildings to housing units without any proper safeguards on quality. A senior member of the review team called it “toxic”.

The Raynsford Review sets out a comprehensive new agenda for a system that could lead to more certainty and coordination of investment.

The review recommends that the Treasury partially redistribute capital gains tax and stamp duty to invest in the nation’s deprived areas.

Councils should also be given powers to compulsory purchase land at a price that enables a fair share of development values between landowners and communities, the review says.

The review also proposes that the National Infrastructure Commission is repurposed to take control of a ‘National Sustainable Development Plan’ – which would act as the overarching framework for all planning decisions. The review says this would speed up development and lead to increased market certainty.

Rt Hon Nick Raynsford said: “We ignore at our peril the anger and disaffection felt by so many communities at the failure of current planning policies and procedures to listen to their concerns and respond to their needs.

“Restoring public confidence in the planning system is one of our generation’s greatest challenges.

“Visionary planning is not just about creating great places in which to live and work. It is also about ensuring that we meet the huge environmental challenges our society faces, not least those arising from the very serious threat of global warming.”

Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive of the TCPA, added: “Permitted development is toxic and leads to a type of inequality not seen in the Britain for over a century.

“Under the arrangements – which have produced over 100,000 housing units – vulnerable people are stripped of any right to light and space, which their children forced to play in active car parks, and no contribution to local services such as doctor’s surgeries or local schools.

“We have a choice. Do we want to build the slums of the future or create places that actually enhance people’s lives?”

Where the report identifies the importance of public awareness and perceptions of planning in the legitimacy and effectiveness of the system, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) welcomed support for its Future Planners initiative and for Planning Aid.

Though RTPI is uncertain about the need for a new ‘covenant for the community’, it agrees ore needs to be done to engage with the silent majority who could be supportive of appropriate well-designed development.

The review highlights the potential for digital tools to support this, with RTPI leading the way on digital planning having announced last week a partnership with the Future Cities Catapult.

Strategic planning, a key focus of the review, is a long-standing priority for the RTPI.

Victoria Hills, RTPI Chief Executive said the review makes a strong case for the public value of planning, showing it can deliver social, environmental and economic value.

Tom Fyans, Director of Campaigns and Policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said: “This landmark report is unequivocal in its recommendations – we must rebalance the planning system back in favour of public interest, and through doing so, prevent the continued unnecessary loss of our finite countryside.”

“We need to rebuild trust in the system to deliver positive outcomes for people, not help line developers’ pockets, in particular by striking a new covenant for community participation, and eliminating “hope value” in the land market.”

“Introducing just these two measures alone would go a long way to getting the right development in the right place. Such a reform would provide more genuinely affordable houses that meets the housing needs of our nation, at the same time as safeguarding the countryside we all know and love.”

John Alker, director of policy and places at UKGBC believes the review delivers a bold vision for the future of planning

“However, minimum standards at a national level shouldn’t preclude local authorities and cities from going further, faster – providing there is consistency in the metrics used,” said Alker.

“There is an opportunity to build on the Review’s recommendations through the better integration of Social Value measurement into planning requirements,” he said.