The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) welcomes Government’s commitment to reforming planning at the heart of the ‘Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill’, but warns that the levelling up agenda will remain compromised as long as the planning system is under resourced.

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI said, “The fact that planning is so central to this bill makes it feel like the profession has been promoted from the Championship to the Premier League.

This is a clear indication that Government recognises what planning can achieve in helping communities across the country.

“While planning reforms may have been a long time coming, the RTPI feels that it is only right that they appear now as an integral part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Though much of this is what we’ve been seeking there are some notable omissions, such as bringing forward the necessary legislation to reintroduce virtual and hybrid local planning meetings and a much needed review of permitted development rights that our evidence suggests has resulted in poor quality housing.”

“Government will not be able to realise ambitions for housing delivery, better quality development and tackling regional imbalances without adequate resourcing to the planning system. Only then will the planners be able to help Levelling Up and regeneration, ensuring the right homes are built in the right places and to the benefit of communities.”

On an infrastructure levy, Victoria Hills said: “The RTPI has long advocated for locally set rates within an infrastructure levy. We believe that locally set rates will contribute further to consultations, helping to make this approach distinct.”

On housing delivery targets levy, Victoria Hills said: “We welcome the Bill’s consideration of local housing delivery targets with greater sensitivity to local challenges and evidence.”

On Design codes, Victoria Hills said: “We welcome and encourage any system that supports local residents in becoming more involved in planning in their areas, and encourage the use of our recently published design codes that put nature recovery and net zero front and centre.”

On empty high streets, Victoria Hills said: “High streets provide a sense of pride and place. We want to see more vacant retail units being used by the wider community and fewer high street spaces converted into residential homes. The Bill recognises the importance of offering shops that have been vacant to community, leisure and other groups which will make for vibrant town centres”

On local plans, Victoria Hills said: “We welcome the substantial reform of local plans, but recognise that the function of local plans is as important as their production. Each local plan produced now will need to implement the 6th carbon budget and contribute to delivering 80% reduction in CO2 by the end of the local plan period.”

On street votes, Victoria Hills said: “While responsibility for the street votes system will be at the discretion of the Secretary of State, the RTPI will work to contribute our member’s experiences, our expertise and timely research to any detailed proposals to bring this forward.”

RTPI members and other key stakeholders look forward to taking the opportunity for further consultation on planning reform. The RTPI will follow up with further analysis on the role of planning within the Levelling Up White Paper in the coming days.