Planning, economy, place: literature review

Review of the publications and case studies regarding how planning can support the economy, and

how the economy can support creating great places.

2. Literature Review


2.1 This section provides a literature review of planning, economy and place. Planning is multi-dimensional, and those actors in the 'planning universe' do not necessarily share the same aims, customs or cultures. Thus the literature review not only summarises the main themes within the broad topic, but also seeks to generate some inter-disciplinary challenge and explores some of the tensions.

Land Economics

2.2 Land economics considers that planning allocates land as a scarce resource - one of the three factors of production alongside labour and capital.

2.3 Harvey and Jowsey(xvi) note that this resource allocation brings (private) benefits and costs to the parties directly concerned, but also to others, in the form of externalities. They contend that the spatial nature of land "gives rise to considerable 'spillover' costs and benefits". Despite these external effects, the arguments for planning control over land are however "incomplete" in their views, as economic appraisals are typically of decisions, rather than forming part of the process. The authors view that process-based analysis would consider both the benefits and the costs of land use[3]. They note that the market economy may be, under certain conditions, more efficient at allocating land than the planning system. However, it is recognised that planning controls can obtain positive benefits for the community as a whole by offsetting "defects in the price mechanism". The authors model a number of specific economic impacts arising from planning controls, including capping development density (and thus marginal gains). That approach might increase individual land values by restricting supply, but could potentially decrease aggregate land values if the allocation to different uses is not efficient.

2.4 Balchin et al agree(xvii) that land values can be increased or decreased by planning. They also observe that market-determined values frequently ignore social needs and often yield monopoly or 'windfall' gains for the landowner. In rationing development land, real estate markets are noted to be an imperfect economic mechanism, as they may disregard social uses and maintain inequalities. Planning, it is noted, can increase private value by promoting complementarity of land uses while separating conflicting uses. More proactively, planning can ensure that where market mechanisms would fail, public authorities could evaluate social considerations using cost-benefit analysis and act accordingly.

2.5 Jones(xviii) observes that the roots of planning are diffuse and intersect with other disciplines. The economic argument for planning rests on regulation for the public good by addressing potential market failures[4]. Economic theory provides a strong but rather general justification for undertaking planning. Planning policy-making is a value-driven activity and thus can take different approaches to the relationship between planning and market forces. Jones notes that the major debates in the field are not about the principal of undertaking land use planning, but rather are about how policy delivers social goals or financial values.

Property Markets

2.6 Turning to the property markets, rationing of scarce development land via planning is often cited as a reason for high house prices across the UK, including in Scotland. This argument makes economic sense, by constraining supply at a level below the demand for housing. It is more difficult though to separate out the wider effects of the housing system and mortgage finance from the effects of planning or other constraints such as infrastructure upon supply and price. For example, government policies pre-2008[5] sought to increase supply as a means to make housing more affordable; when with hindsight it is now clear that easy availability of mortgage finance was also a factor in propelling prices upwards.

2.7 From a commercial property investment perspective, Fraser(xix) identifies that the supply elasticity of different commercial property types affects their rents and rental growth. Thus industrial property is found in many locations and delivers the lowest rents and growth in values. Offices are more selective - found in urban centres and business parks - and deliver higher growth. Retail is most selective of all and delivers the highest growth. The planning system's rationing of scarce land for these uses aligns with the market and supports this hierarchy of values.

Development outputs

2.8 Planning consents the development of land. The outputs from this are housing, commercial, employment and community land uses, plus supporting infrastructure such as transport and energy. These outputs can be readily modelled, using traditional economic approaches and widely-available data. Recent development output studies in Scotland have found:-

2.8.1 In 2016, the industry body Homes for Scotland commissioned a report(xx) looking at the economic and social benefits of home building in Scotland. The report found that the home building sector contributes to Gross Value Added (GVA) economic output through development and its extensive supply chains and networks which then generate additional output, employment and spending. The report suggests a £3.2 billion contribution at that time to the economy including direct, indirect and induced GVA. Increased local expenditure was estimated at £334 million, as residents buy goods and services. The report also suggests an £84 million contribution in Section 75 agreements[6] via the planning system. According to the report, housing also provides a range of social benefits linked to health and educational attainment and skills.

2.8.2 A comparable analysis for the commercial property sector was very recently launched by the industry body for that sector, the Scottish Property Federation(xxi). The report suggests that the sector contributes almost £4.8 billion to the Scottish economy and supports more than 92,000 jobs. Around half of the economic impact is direct and half is the 'spill over' effects of the industry (ie. the supply chain and spending noted above for the home building industry).

2.8.3 No fully comparable analysis of public sector investment in schools, healthcare and public buildings is readily available. As a very broad guide, Scottish Futures Trust's Hub(xxii) delivery programme currently has £0.794 billion of projects under construction. Not all will complete in a single year, but equally this does not record all public sector development activity, nor the multiplier effects from that economic activity (which in the commercial case above doubled the economic impact).

2.8.4 The combined annual GVA output from housing, commercial and public sector development in Scotland is therefore tentatively estimated at around £10 billion.

2.8.5 Planning contributes to these activities though planning for and consenting to development, and can therefore make some claim on the economic outputs. This claim would of course be made along with the myriad market actors who deliver infrastructure and development across Scotland. A fuller assessment of planning outputs could also include investment in affordable homes by social landlords, and in infrastructure, public spaces, rural and marine activities, and primary industries.

2.9 However, this 'development output' approach provides only a narrow view of the activity which the planning system supports. It considers short run development and investment, not the substantial effects of long run use, including wider socio-economic benefits (and costs).

2.10 In this context, the Scottish Government's draft planning advice on net economic benefits(xxiiii) is also mainly a 'development outputs' approach. The guidance focuses upon economic outputs (including long term employment) as potential material considerations for proposals in "finely balanced" planning decisions.


2.11 The majority of development in the UK and Scotland is now delivered by private sector developers and investors(xxiv). Their investment requirements will vary considerably, around the general aim to generate a target rate of return at an acceptable level of risk.

2.12 Since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, there has however been clear risk aversion by development markets in the UK. The consequence is that developers and investors typically seek proven housing markets, or committed (pre-let or pre-sold) commercial developments which are mainly found in larger cities. Private house builders operate a build-and-sell model which is dependent on development viability. Commercial developers often seek an early 'exit' through sale of a completed and occupied building.

2.13 For longer term investors however there is a growing research base on the value of development (eg. British Council for Offices(xxv), Savills(xxvi)). However this tends to focus on long run financial returns from high value markets and major cities rather, than development more generally (a symbiotic relationship between wider long run values and "prestige" markets is also found by CABE, below). Longer term investors include social housing landlords, pension funds, life assurance companies, some private landlords and 'patient' capital in the form of multi-generational estates.

2.14 There is an established range of publications on what commercial investors seek when considering places and markets. Again these focus on the deep and resurgent market demand found in larger cities. These publications are typically produced as 'rankings' by consultancy firms - EY, Mercer, JLL et al - as a guide for investors considering where to place capital. As such, they may be highly informative for investment decision-making but do not explore planning, economy and place in any sophisticated fashion.

2.15 A recent publication by the Centre for Cities(xxvii) takes a more rounded view of what investors seek. That report identifies the importance of: a strong city economy with growth potential; an excellent transport system which can keep up with economic expansion; consistent and pro-investment leadership; and a focus on delivery within a responsive, pro-investment planning system (our bold). The city in question must then develop opportunities and have a strong profile among investors. In terms of planning, the report also notes the importance to investors of strategic thinking, regional spatial planning and responsive planning. This assessment of investor requirements clearly points to interdependencies within planning, economy and place.

Economic outcomes

2.16 A broader economic approach to planning considers 'outcomes' rather than simply development outputs.

2.17 For example, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has researched ways in which the quality of the built environment influences the economic success of places. An assessment of Glasgow's Gorbals regeneration(xxviii) provides a positive example of where investment in the stewardship of place over time has contributed to improved economic outcomes at the Crown Street Regeneration Project. The paper provides an example of an evaluation of the economic impact of a specific, geographically-bounded planning intervention. Although the report acknowledges that measuring the benefits of regeneration projects is difficult due to the wide range of variables affecting outcomes, it identified a 21% decrease in the percentage of population who were 'income deprived'. This suggests a link between planning activity and positive economic outcomes. The authors recognise that some of the regeneration benefits may have derived from gentrification, but note that a significant amount of social housing stock was retained in the area, 90% of which was allocated to re-locating tenants from other public housing in the Gorbals.

2.18 As implied by the Gorbals example, housing is a linchpin of economic development, and is particularly prominent in regeneration projects. Housing can enhance economic performance and place competitiveness, but can also lead to segregation and spatial concentrations of poverty.

2.19 In a report for The Centre for Cities, Glossop(xxix) explored how area-based interventions linked improvements in housing to economic performance. The report concluded that although valuable lessons can be learnt, housing-led projects alone will be unable to drive economic regeneration. It also explores economic development challenges arising from growth.

2.20 In a suite of research projects for the London School of Economics which sought to identify the true economic effects of land-use planning, Cheshire(xxx) considered the nature and policy implications of planning restrictions on housing supply. He argues that planning is fundamentally an economic activity, but allocates a scarce resource independently of prices or market information. Cheshire broadly concludes that planning restrictions increase prices, reduce quality, reduce productivity and increase market volatility, but notes that there continue to be good reasons for regulating most markets through planning.

2.21 Cheshire et al(xxxi) also evaluated the effects of 'town centre first' planning policies on the retail sector. The work considered the effects of planning restrictiveness on stores within a supermarket group. Using the variation generated in planning policies between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it found that planning policy directly depressed productivity by reducing store sizes and forcing retailers onto less productive sites. Since the 1980s, planning policies have imposed a loss of total factor productivity of around 25% in the retailing industry. However, the research cannot discriminate rigorously between the impacts of direct constraints and other costs.

2.22 Jones (2014, op cit), proposes that there is a "vacuum in the debate" about the relationships between planning policies and market forces. The paper contrasts a range of evidence and outcomes, which range in the author's view from successful New Towns, through variably successful 1980s urban regeneration, to less successful retail policy which has led to "decentralisation in a rather unsystematic way" (working with the retail market's spatial preferences rather than imposing strict constraints may have been preferable, in the author's view).

2.23 In 2008, the RTPI and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)(xxxii) in England explored how indicators can be used to improve the contribution of spatial planning to the delivery of sustainable development The reports contends that ascertaining the outcomes of spatial planning is difficult. This is due to the potential breadth of desired planning objectives, the lack of precision surrounding their definition and the complex institutional environment.

Wider values

2.24 The Value of Planning(xxxiii), authored by Adams and Watkins and published by the RTPI in 2014, is a significant milestone for this literature review. The report develops a research framework to move from an understanding of planning as a 'regulatory' activity, to its role in 'shaping markets', and thus directly into planning, economy and place.

2.25 The research assesses in detail not only what is currently understood about planning and its effects, but also what is not understood. Despite extensive planning reform across the UK, it appears to be the only report of its type. Much of the report is relevant to this research; a broad summary is provided below:-

2.25.1 The report considers the financial and economic value of planning, while recognising broader social and environmental value. It notes that work elsewhere - some of it cited in this literature review - may be "informed by the view that planning inhibits growth". It proposes that planning is much broader than simply a regulatory activity, rather it shapes places, and shapes and stimulates markets. Adding value through planning in these ways can create stronger economic growth and enhanced viability; whereas poor planning has costs in "negative externalities"[7]. As a cautionary note however, the authors report that we "do not always know why" planning works very well and adds value in some places, but not in others.

2.25.2 Six types of value that can be enhanced by planning are noted by the authors: price; use; social; environmental; image and cultural. The first two reflect economic value. In promoting sustainable development, the report notes that planning requires to take a triple bottom line approach: social, economic and environmental. Barker(xxxiv) is cited as observing that land use planning should not prioritise economic objectives above the other sustainable development goals. This can involve trade-offs, with the planning system "central to resolving these conflicts", as markets "left to pursue a narrow conception of economic growth…. might generate unwelcome outcomes". In addressing externalities, resolving self-interests with wider interests, helping to deliver infrastructure and dealing with distributional effects, planning has a sound economic basis and "a very clear pro-growth element".

2.25.3 Different stakeholders experience their own costs and benefits of planning, colouring their views of 'value'. A wide range of 25[8] stakeholders is depicted by the report under the principal headings of developers, landowners, politicians/ communities/ interest groups, investors and occupiers.

2.25.4 Existing economic evidence around planning is found to be "thin". Cheshire et al at 2.20 and 2.21 above is found to be quantitative and neo-classical in approach, ignoring behavioural and social influences such as industry structures and imperfect markets (although his retail example was found to be more convincing). By focusing on regulation, such research fails to account for planning's role in promoting broader value and helping to eliminate aggregate costs. In summary "Planning impacts are highly complex and do not simply act as a regulatory drag on the flow of supply".

2.25.5 The RTPI report coins the term "plan-shaped markets", as a shorthand for more efficient and equitable markets. These embed sustainable aims by making it 'worth it' for market actors by creating added and wider value. The main instruments for achieving this are plans and policies, (reform of) property rights, and market transformation (direct intervention). The report suggests that plan-shaped markets can add value to real estate outcomes by altering: locations (promoting more compact development); products (more variety); quality (longer-lasting); developments that sustain (rather than exhaust) places; efficiency (renewable sources); horizons (lengthening); consumers (to include communities not just customers); and production (to reduce shortages).

2.25.6 This market-shaping joins-up decisions which might otherwise happen in isolation: between sites; between the public and private realms; between use and development; between infrastructure and development; and between the present and future[9]. Crucially, these joined-up decisions are not solely focused on social outcomes, but can moreover "enhance private benefits and reduce private costs", by providing certainty. This approach requires evidence, rationale, a persuasive plan-maker, high level endorsement, the capacity to marshal wider resources, attractive communication, stakeholder engagement and community support.

2.25.7 The report considers that much of the UK has retreated to a regulatory approach to planning. This mean that it is "left with half a planning system, still able to restrict development, but with only limited power to initiate development." (our bold) More positively though, planners in Scotland are recognised as being encouraged to work in partnership with developers, agencies and departments "to support and influence good development in the right places."(xxxv)

2.25.8 Dispiritingly, the RTPI report concludes that research on the impact and value of planning is little further on than in 2003, when the House of Commons(xxxvi) rejected an accusation that planning regulation drags on UK productivity, finding instead that the "'cost/benefit' approach to planning has… tended to focus on the easier to measure costs".

2.25.9 The RTPI report concludes that a 'pluralist' approach is required - beyond standard economics to include welfare, institutional, behavioural and social models.

2.26 Commenting on this approach to market-shaping, Jones (2014, op cit) acknowledges the role of planners in shaping, regulation and stimulating markets, but cautions that this is simplistic if it ignores market constraints on policy. He cites research evidence for the "ineffectiveness of a specific policy when market forces are clearly set against it." The requirement to engage with the land use markets is seen by Jones as the "one constant" within the shifting focus of planning policy.

2.27 Developing the theme of the value of planning, the RTPI has commissioned work in Wales, supported by the Welsh Government. The brief for the project seeks to develop and test a model or framework for capturing the economic, social and environmental value delivered by local authority planning in Wales. The project is currently ongoing and is understood to be due to report later in 2018.[10]

International Research

2.28 Internationally, there have been examples of how planning can be used to stimulate economic growth. A 2015 research report(xxxvii) charts the proactive role of China's planning system in strengthening the economy as well as shaping the market to the needs of society. The system operates in such a way that private developers rely on the government and its planners to spearhead any large scale developments and reduce risks. The report provides examples of how planning can be used to create new housing catering to various population groups as well as offering employment opportunities in new satellite towns. While Cheshire's work reviewed at 2.20 and 2.21 highlights planning as a regulatory constraint, Wu Zhang and Wang provide evidence that the regulatory nature of planning does not necessarily inhibit economic performance, at least within the particular market structure which prevails in China.

2.29 Closer to home, Lord et al(xxxviii) explored how planning is used to stimulate development in Germany, France and The Netherlands, and what the UK can learn from these countries. The report found that planning stimulates positive economic outcomes where planners have an understanding of risk within the development process. This allows public and private sector actions to be more effectively combined across multiple stakeholders and coalitions. Using this wider international perspective, the authors suggest that the kind of outcomes that will enhance economic performance through the creation of great places may require more planning, not less.

2.30 A review(xxxix) of European planning systems and house building considered Ireland, Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands. The evidence suggested that a more permissive planning system alone will not necessarily deliver higher levels of house building, but rather that delivery is linked to wider land market and housing issues. A connected and collaborative approach which considers planning, infrastructure finance and provision, land supply and housing development at a local level appears to be what underpins successful delivery.

Emerging Trends

2.31 Looking forward, the RTPI's Planning Horizons Project considers the major economic trends that will shape societies in the 21st century and how planning can play a critical role. The programme explores(xl) the complex interplay between the changing global economy and sustainable economic growth. The paper advocates a broader approach to economic development, moving away from narrow measurements such as GDP and GVA, and instead adopting a long term view which focuses on major economic trends such as population change, globalisation and competition, technological change, inequality and social cohesion and climate change.

2.32 A 2018 paper(xli) notes that planning's focus on the economy is relatively recent, tracing this to the "neoliberal turn"[11] of policy. The paper expands the theme along the lines of the RTPI 2014 report, to note that planning can seek to achieve integration across the various conflicts - such as resources and property rights - inherent in social, environmental and economic objectives. However, comparatively little is known about social equity within such models.

2.33 These themes are also reviewed by Campbell(xlii), who notes that the drive towards achieving sustainable development means that planners must work within the tensions generated by the competing goals of environmental protection, economic development and social equity, with nothing in the (planning) discipline inherently steering them towards any of the three. Campbell describes this as the 'planners' triangle', with the competing goals connected by the "property conflict", "development conflict" and "resource conflict". This cautionary note for the triple bottom line approach sees competing interests as well as mutual benefit in inclusive planning.

Evolution of Place

2.34 Approaches to place-making can be seen in the blue print approach of comprehensive urban development of late 19th and early 20th century. Influential thinkers in planning and place-making included Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) and Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). Each brought an interdisciplinary approach to planning and place making and tried to balance the three conflicts evident in the planner's triangle noted above; economic development, social equity and environmental protection.

2.35 In his pioneering approach to place, Geddes(xliii) brought together economics, geography and anthropology in an understanding of urban development rooted in 'Place, Work, Folk'. This holistic approach to place creation incorporates physical geography as well as socio-economic opportunities and challenges into planning decisions. The approach could be seen in practice in Geddes' opposition to the slum clearances in Edinburgh's Old Town. Geddes famously observed that:

'town planning is not mere place-planning, nor even work planning. If it is to be successful it must be folk planning'.

2.36 The idea of 'folk planning' was echoed by Howard in his garden cities (xliv) movement, where he considered the balance between the economy and the environment in the well-being of residents. Howard recommended that no more than 30,000 people should live in a town and that it should be surrounded by a green belt in order to achieve this balance.

2.37 However, while both approaches had a clear focus on people and place, their methods for creating better places rarely involved the participation of those 'folk' they were planning for. Both approaches fuelled the rise of the rational-comprehensive model of urban development; the idea that there would be a survey of a region, followed by an analysis, and the preparation of a plan.

2.38 The second half of the 20th century saw the rise of community participation and neighbourhood activism as a challenge to the comprehensive model of place-making, notably Jane Jacobs(xlv) in the city of New York. Following the publication of the Skeffington Report(xlvi) in 1969, public consultation on place-making became required components of the planning system and this has developed into innovative methods of engaging different sectors of the public in the place-making agenda.

2.39 While this means that participation in place-making has opened up to the public, it has also seen the rise of a plethora of agendas on place-creation, rather than a focus on seminal works such as those of Geddes and Howard. Examples include 'New Urbanism' in the 1970s, the regeneration agenda and Urban Task Force of the 1980s and 1990s[12] and the city sector-focused marketing of such as 'the creative city' and the 'knowledge city' of the current era.

Place-based approaches

2.40 'Place' can be an elusive concept. Some authors(xlvii) distinguish between 'space' and 'place'. The starting point for planners is that places are much more than simply physical locations, but that they gain social significance through the activities and practices people perform in them and thus the 'humanisation of space'. For planning, this happens through a diverse range of factors such as physical features, air and water, environmental quality, neighbourhood socio-cultural characteristics, provision of services and reputation(xlviii).

2.41 McInroy and Longlands (2010)(xlix) view that "place policy is economic policy" (our underline). While policy has been focused on economic growth, the economic crisis of 2008 created a cross roads in UK localities. The authors argue that instead of focusing upon 'hard economies' such as small business start-ups, investment and land supply, policy should focus on the 'softer' aspects of place such as neighbourhood renewal, environmental sustainability and community empowerment and participation. They contend that places should be understood in terms of 'resilience', not purely economic growth. They test ten 'resilience factors' which embrace change, flexibility and the composition and influence of the social, public and commercial economies and the relationships between these. Place resilience is found to be most effective where a local authority brokers relationships between different parts of the private, public and social economies, and where there is a closer integration of land use planning with economic development.

2.42 Matthews et al(l) suggest that a more holistic approach can make a difference in the quality of neighbourhoods, as improvements in one outcome can lead to indirect improvements in other outcomes (such as neighbourhood perception, well-being, confidence and social capital). They argue that the greatest positive outcome is physical renewal to make a neighbourhood more attractive to new residents. Similarly, based on research in England, Bailey(li) claims that place-based approaches have led to positive outcomes in community engagement and service delivery. However, once funding ends, services are often unsustainable as the root cause of problems lie beyond the neighbourhood level. Bailey also notes the difficulty of proving that neighbourhoods would have become more deprived without a place-based intervention[13].


2.43 In 2012, the United Nations(lii) set out ten strategies for transforming cities and public spaces through place-making. The UN argued that in order to jump- start economic development through place-making, specific actions are required:

  • Improve streets as places
  • Create squares and parks as multi use destinations
  • Build local economies through markets
  • Design buildings to support places
  • Link a public health agenda to a public space agenda
  • Reinvent community planning
  • Achieving a critical mass of 10 good places in a neighbourhood
  • Create a comprehensive public space agenda
  • Start small and experiment, using a " lighter, quicker, cheaper" approach
  • Restructure government to support public places

2.44 A 2014 paper(liii) suggests how effective planning can help with uncertainty in creating future visions for places. It highlights the unique role that planning plays in bringing a cross-disciplinary perspective of thinking spatially, including across administrative boundaries. It advocates bringing planners to the forefront of a broader approach to place development. This will require planners to have a better understanding of local markets. The paper makes recommendations to devolve the growth agenda and integrate land use planning with other policy areas.

2.45 Following on from its publication of Creating Places, the Scottish Government commissioned research in 2014 into the value of design in the built environment. The research(liv) sought to explore how 'value' is handled in the development process in Scotland. It identified that while design is always part of the development process, it is only sometimes part of the early decision making. While case studies provided positive empirical evidence of design value, consultations raised concerns over public procurement and developers' requirement for clear monetary value. Well-designed buildings and places are not valued on a consistent basis; indeed 'value' and 'design' can be loaded terms subject to individual perceptions. Property market 'value' for example may or may not meet triple bottom-line aims. The report proposed nine measures to consider in constructing a more holistic value assessment tool.

2.46 In the early 2000s, the UK's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) published research and essays on the value of good urban design(lv) and the costs of bad design(lvi). The characteristics of good design were reported as character, continuity and enclosure, quality of the public realm, ease of movement, legibility, adaptability and diversity; environmental sustainability was added to the list by CABE. Through analysis of selected commercial developments, good design was found to add economic, social and environmental value. Good design did not necessarily take longer or cost more, but delivered high investor returns and benefits to all stakeholders. The report considered that this concern for value could be extended "beyond prestige markets" including into the public sector. CABE's "obverse" report on bad design noted that long term costs are not borne by developers, or by the public sector procurers, but by those using and affected by buildings and places.

Delivering Places[14]

2.47 A research stream has emerged into planning's role in not simply shaping and guiding activity, but in actually delivering places.

2.48 The RTPI's 2016 report Delivering the Value of Planning(lvii) discusses how the planning process can be improved to achieve this. It uses the examples of Cranbrook in East Devon, Brindleyplace in Birmingham, Upton in Northampton, Norwich Riverside and Fairfield Park in Bedfordshire to illustrate how proactive planning can contribute to successful places. The report makes three recommendations: that there should be a conversation among planners about how better social, economic and environmental outcomes can be delivered; that government should be involved in this by considering the powers, resources and expertise that planning services require; and that research and policy should analyse the value of planning so that outcomes can be maximised. The report also advocates stronger public sector leadership through local plans with longer term visions and the public management of land supply. This leadership should also be extended into the private sector with lessons being learnt from Urban Regeneration Companies (see case studies in Section 3), Urban Development Corporations and Enterprise Zones.

2.49 Delivering Better Places in Scotland(lviii) investigated eight case studies in the UK and Europe. These provided valuable lessons about the process of delivering better places and informed a framework for action. The report concludes that Scotland can "do much better in making places" through a "radical change in thinking" within both the public and private sector.

2.50 A subsequent report(lix) on creating and delivering great places to live set out 10 propositions for Scotland. The report highlighted a paucity of places actually being created and delivered in Scotland, and that the quality of those which were being delivered, with few exceptions, ranged "from poor to indifferent". The report called for a radical upgrade of place-making in Scotland through introducing three essential components into place-making; leadership, place making skills and stewardship (these are shared with the 2010 report at 2.49). The report concluded that the missing ingredient in place-making in Scotland is place stewardship, and highlights that "creating and delivering better places will require long term commitment to place-quality rather than just the short term approach of conventional speculative development".

2.51 Building upon delivery, Huerkens et al(lx) unpack planning's roles. By using market information obtained through partnering activities with market actors (capacity building), planners can readjust policies, plans and frameworks (shaping), identify financial conditions (stimulating) and plan development conditions (regulating) to align with market needs. In the regeneration projects studied, planners shaped the conditions for development by setting a broad context for developers. In Bristol for example, planners influenced the £325 million Harbourside project (completed in 2012) by shaping development decisions through a framework and specific conditions (while allowing flexibility around densities), regulating the provision of affordable housing, conservation of buildings and public realm, stimulating development through public investment then market incentives, and capacity building through partnership.


2.52 At a local level, the 2015 community empowerment Act(lxi) brought into focus how communities in Scotland could be encouraged to influence their local places. To help promote this, the Scottish Government in partnership with Architecture and Design Scotland and NHS Scotland launched the Place Standard Tool[15] and The Understanding Scottish Places (USP)[16] platform. The Place Standard Tool aims to promote public participation in considering 14 diverse indicators of place quality including identity and belonging, housing and community, work, transport and natural space. USP offers a mechanism for understanding the similarity of places across Scotland using socio-economic data. These initiatives promote a common language and shared, accessible research base for the sometimes abstract concept of 'place'.

2.53 One emerging field in Scotland is public interest development(lxii). This sees a role for the public sector in acting as a 'prime mover' using its own assets, and acting as the patient (long term) investor to create value from land and development, and thus achieve policy objectives. This is similar to the models of place delivery sourced from wider European examples cited above. The paper notes planning's "switch" from delivery to a more regulatory function during the 1980s, as described above, and positions its approach as a response to that.

2.54 Place has also been considered in the context of effective delivery of planning as a service. The Improvement Service(lxiii) assessed the current (2016) landscape of place-based approaches to joint planning, resourcing and delivery across Local Authority Areas. It is based on a literature review and interviews with 27 (of 32) Local Authorities in Scotland. Place-based approaches were predominantly planned and delivered by public and third sector services working with local communities and community planners (rather than the private sector). There were various challenges identified in place-based working such as data gathering and sharing, resources and capacity community engagement, culture and defining localities. It was noted that most of the projects assessed were still at an early stage therefore it was difficult to judge their impacts.

Monitoring Planning's Outcomes

2.55 Finally, the Scottish Government has commissioned research into monitoring the outcomes of planning. The research is to "identify how place-based outcomes from planning could be monitored to demonstrate the value added during the planning process and how the final development has resulted in an improved place". The interim report(lxiv) locates an indicator-based approach within the wider outcomes of a performance management framework. This approach could consider the purpose of the planning system, what success "looks like", policy instruments and administrative processes, long term outcomes, and monitoring and evaluation. The work is still developing but there are clear parallels with the emerging interest in the wider values of planning which has been noted here.

Context for Case Studies

2.56 The next section of the report provides four short, focused case studies of ongoing projects. The literature review presented above indicates that the case studies should be framed and considered in terms of:

  • Planning, economy and place being mutually supportive from policy into practice, echoing and embedding sustainable growth within project design and delivery.
  • Planning enabling the development markets and leveraging investment; unlocking and adding value while balancing long run social, economic and environmental costs and benefits.
  • A sufficiently broad approach that considers outcomes rather than simply development outputs, across a range private and public/community interests.

These are intended as general guidance only, and the case studies are presented as summary illustrations rather than project evaluations.


Email: Eric Dawson

Back to top