UK public wants more involvement in planning process, IEMA research finds

3rd July 2024


Three in five British adults want more public involvement in the planning system, which could be at odds with Labour’s plans to boost economic growth, IEMA research has found.

After surveying over 2,000 adults, the researchers found that 63% believe there should be more public involvement in planning for new housing developments, while 59% feel the same for major infrastructure projects.

This sentiment is even higher in Scotland, on 73% and 67%, respectively, with less than 10% of British adults believing there should be reduced public involvement in the planning process.

However, the Labour Party’s manifesto promises to “slash red tape” and build 1.5 million new homes while forging ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally-significant infrastructure.

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, said there was no doubt the planning system requires reform, but warned against watering down public oversight and environmental protections.

“Sensible planning reform can unlock the potential of the green economy, accelerating low-carbon infrastructure and the development of new homes that are consistent with net-zero carbon reduction targets under a Future Homes Standard,” she continued.

“But any reforms need to ensure the planning system continues to balance economic growth, the needs and rights of local people, and importantly, environmental risk.

“And polling clearly shows that the public want more, not less involvement, in planning decisions.”

The Labour manifesto does also promise to ensure local communities continue to shape housebuilding in their area, and that the party will provide funding for 300 new local planning officers.

However, it adds: “Where necessary, Labour will not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need.”

IEMA recommends that policymakers, with support from business, should:

• Create more meaningful opportunities to improve public participation in the planning system.

• Do more to promote evidence-based impact assessment practice and mandate the use of competent experts.

• Create a national environmental assessment unit to enhance environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessments (SEA) delivery.

The Institute’s impact assessment policy lead, Rufus Howard, said: “Investment in new planning officers is welcome – but if the planning system really has been identified as the number one blocker to economic growth, then it needs to be properly funded across the board.

“If you want to speed up the planning system you need to mandate the use of competent experts – not just local planning officers, but also environmental impacts assessors and other professionals – to ensure evidence-based practice.

“That means more capacity building.

“Growing skills, proper staffing levels, proper pay, so we have well-staffed, well-trained officers throughout the planning system, who can make sensible, timely decisions at the local level, taking into account economy, people and nature, in other words – sustainable economic growth.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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