With the Labour Party putting planning reform at the centre of plans for economic growth, new polling by YouGov for IEMA has found 3 in 5 of adults in Britian think there should be more public involvement in the planning system.

The survey found 63% of people think there should be more public involvement in planning for new housing developments and 59% in major infrastructure planning. The numbers were higher in Scotland with 73% and 67%.

The IEMA/YouGov survey also found that less than 10% of people think there should be less public involvement in the planning process of new housing developments (8%) and major infrastructure projects (9%).

Labour’s manifesto promises to “slash red tape”, build 1.5 million new homes and forge ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally significant infrastructure – making major projects faster and cheaper by building support for developments and ensuring communities directly benefit.

The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), which represents almost 22,000 environment and sustainability professionals, including the UK largest collection of Impact Assessment professionals cited “improving public participation in the planning system” as a key policy ask ahead of next month’s election.

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

IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, said: “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.

“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 says it will ensure local communities continue to shape housebuilding in their area, with funding for 300 new local planning officers, but “where necessary Labour will not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need”.

IEMA’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.”

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

  1. Create more meaningful opportunities to improve public participation in the planning system.
  2. Do more to promote evidence-based Impact Assesment practice and to mandate the use of competent experts.
  3. Create a national environmental assessment unit to enhance environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessments (SEA) delivery.

YouGov Polling:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,015 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th - 12th June 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


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