RTPI publishes ‘more effective way’ to measure impact of planning

An innovative way to better measure and demonstrate the value of planning and how it helps create sustainable and successful places has been published by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The Measuring What Matters: Planning Outcomes Research produced as part of a research project funded by the RTPI, the governments of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, along with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Office of the Planning Regulator in Ireland, looks beyond simple measurements - such as the speed of processing applications and the number of houses built - towards a more holistic approach. 

It builds on steps taken across the nations to improve on how planning performance is measured in terms of outcomes on the ground. The project has culminated in the development of a report and a series of toolkits which can be adapted by local planning authorities across the UK and Ireland to improve their outcome measurement.

The research has been launched today to mark World Town Planning Day on Sunday.

It has been designed to better connect policy, decision-making and quality of outcomes in social, economic and environmental terms against a backdrop of huge shifts in legislation, policy and expectations of planning over the past two decades.

Craig McLaren, director of Scotland and Ireland at the RTPI, said: “Good planning can support the post-COVID-19 recovery to move towards a green economy, help achieve zero carbon targets and improve communities’ health and wellbeing. Indeed, this has been outlined in our recent research Plan the World We Need. But to date we have not had an effective way of measuring those outcomes or to show the value planning, planners and the planning system bring.

“We need to measure what matters and although this is complex it is essential to determine whether and how the potential wider benefits of planning are being realised. The toolkit can support governments and planning authorities to do that through providing a clearer understanding of how the planning system is performing.”

The research, which builds on the RTPI’s previous work around the Value of Planning, was delivered by a consortium of planning consultancies and academics from around the UK and Ireland led by Kevin Murray Associates (KMA).

Iain MacPherson from KMA said: “If you are what you measure, this risks a system in which success is viewed narrowly through the prism of process and performance, and does not necessarily deliver on quality of life and physical place.

“At a time when we need planning to respond to economic and societal pressures, it needs to demonstrate that it delivers the public interest and longer-term environmental outcomes.”

The research that informed the toolkit identified eight outcome themes:

  • Place quality – design and people;
  • Health and wellbeing;
  • Environment – conservation and improvement;
  • Climate change;
  • Homes and community;
  • Movement;
  • Economy and town centres;
  • Process and engagement

The toolkit, which has been piloted in Ireland and Scotland, will enable planners to monitor, evaluate and even repurpose planning in the public interest. It is intended to be used in a cyclical repeat of monitor, review and application of learning through diagnosis.

Tags: RTPI

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