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Nick Raynsford calls for a radical rethink of planning reform

15 January 2020

In a powerful call for a change of direction of national planning policy, the former housing minister Nick Raynsford has warned that the current system is delivering the slums of the future.

One year on from the landmark Raynsford Review of English planning, the TCPA is highlighting the lack of action to deal with a system which is not promoting the health, wellbeing and civil rights of communities. The new report makes clear that while planning has a huge potential to make people’s lives better, this opportunity continues to be undermined by deregulation and a failure to address the chronic loss of public confidence and trust in the planning system. It calls on the Government to immediately restrict permitted development rights, which allow the conversion of commercial buildings to housing units without any proper safeguards on quality. It also repeats the call for a new legal duty to focus the planning system on the health, safety and wellbeing of communities.

The update report launched today (Wednesday 15 January at 18:30) recognises that while the system has been producing large numbers of planning permissions for homes, the quality of these units can be shockingly poor. This is not simply cramped flats without windows delivered through permitted development, but also large numbers of new homes in poorly designed estates which lack public transport and basic social facilities. The report concludes that far from too much planning, the nation is suffering from deregulation and a lack of ambition, and calls for powerful public sector-led planning to reduce risk and transform the quality and affordability of new communities.

The report sets out a list of focused priorities which need urgent attention by the new Government. These include the need for long-term planning for climate change and to ensure the system helps tackle inequality by providing genuinely affordable and high-quality homes.

Rt Hon Nick Raynsford said:

‘A year ago we identified the real possibility of a new generation of slum housing produced through the deregulation of the planning system. That fear has become a reality and our update report shows that over the past twelve months the situation has got worse not better. This follow-up report is an urgent wake-up call, highlighting what needs to be done to secure a planning system which creates great places, upholds decent standards and promotes the public interest.

‘We ignore at our peril the anger and disaffection felt by so many communities at the failure of current planning policies and procedures to listen to their concerns and respond to their needs. Restoring public confidence in the planning system is one of our generation’s greatest challenges.’

Matt Thomson, Head of Land Use & Planning at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: 

‘The failure of the current planning system to deliver well-designed, healthy and affordable places to live is not the only issue at stake here. Since the Review was published in Autumn 2018, we have seen global governmental declarations of a climate emergency, including in the UK, and an increasing recognition of the impact of human activity on nature.

‘Addressing these issues alongside the crisis in the quality, affordability and distribution of housing requires a means to rationally balance competing demands on the use of land – something that can only realistically be achieved through a strong, evidence-based and democratically accountable planning system.’

Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of the TCPA, said:

‘The Government has emphasised the importance of good design on numerous occasions over the last 12 months and that is welcome. But if we want to see meaningful change in practice, and create places that enhance people’s lives, the Government needs to take action. Under the current permitted development arrangements —which have already produced tens of thousands of housing units—vulnerable people are stripped of any right to light and space and children are having to play in active car parks. Plus, these new units are making no contribution to local services such as doctor’s surgeries, local schools or decent affordable homes.

‘We agree with the Government that we need more homes but if we are to tackle the housing, health and climate crises we need changes to the planning system.’

Julia Foster, Managing Partner at David Lock Associates, said:

‘Last year’s report of the Raynsford Review was an embattled cry to find ways to ensure that the best of what planning can do becomes the norm, not the exception. There is much still to do to deliver the right outcomes, and not just rhetoric, for communities.’

‘I am delighted to stand alongside Nick Raynsford and the TCPA in keeping the pressure on.”

Notes for editors

1. Planning 2020; ‘One Year On’,

2. Planning 2020, the final report of the Raynsford Review of Planning, which was published in November 2018.

3. The Raynsford Review task force includes: Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) President, Rt Hon Nick Raynsford; Founding Director of Living Space Project, Maria Adebowale-Schwarte; Managing Partner at David Lock Associates, Julia Foster; Chief Executive of the TCPA, Fiona Howie; President-Elect of the Local Government Association (LGA), Chair of Peabody and Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake; Professor of Planning, Environment and Public Policy at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, Yvonne Rydin; Consultant and former Chief Planning Inspector, Chris Shepley CBE; Planner at Leicester City Council, Aranvir Singh Gawera; Head of Land Use and Planning at CPRE, the countryside charity, Matt Thomson; Barrister, William Upton QC; Founder Incredible Edible, Pam Warhurst CBE; and Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Public Practice, Finn Williams.

4. The Raynsford Review of Planning was commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), an independent campaigning charity calling for more integrated planning based on the principles of accessibility, sustainability, diversity and community cohesion. For more information on the TCPA, click here.

5. Contact Jessica Fieth at , or +44 20 3965 5421.