Friday, 9 September 2011

Perhaps the RTPI might like to provide some evidence that planning supports growth?


As part of their "myth-busting" campaign the RTPI are banging away at the lunatic idea that somehow planning helps the economy:

However rather than act as a barrier, the planning system can positively contribute to the Government’s long-term plan for sustainable economic growth in the UK. 

For a minute I shall suspend credulity and give the planners a listen - after all, with all their vast resources, with all those planning academics, all those think tanks, they might just present some evidence in support of their contention. It appears that this is about it - a quote from the RTPI President is all the evidence they can muster:

“It’s not said often enough or strongly enough that planners will be essential to sustained economic recovery. If they are not involved buildings will be constructed without the necessary infrastructure, development will not be sustainable, our environment and heritage will be put in peril and our communities will risk becoming socially dysfunctional. Far from being the enemies of enterprise, planners are critical to business development and economic growth.”

Without the benign guidance of planners all civilization will end. And we won't get wonders like the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone which is apparently:

" area of economic underperformance, where the planning process is key to re-establishing the area as the economic heart of the City (e.g. through infrastructure provision)."

That's it - that is the totality of the planners' argument  - essentially that planning is good for economic growth because they tell us it's good for economic growth.

Planners don't "deliver" anything - they control the development process. And in doing this they act as a drag on that development. So the economic benefits that come from planning must outweigh this negative impact on development and the additional cost to business involved in running the planning process (a direct cost in fees, a cost in lost time and an indirect cost in higher taxes and land prices).

This isn't to say that planning isn't needed or that planners do not do something of value. But it is to say that, ceteris paribus, planning has a negative impact on growth. Maybe there is some hard evidence - so research rather than the opinion of a planner - that says I'm wrong but until the RTPI produce that evidence, I'll continue to believe what my eyes and ears tell me. That planning makes it harder to do business, harder to develop and harder to grow the economy.


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