Get Politicians Out of Planning

The current planning system satisfies nobody and should be privatised, argues John Corkindale, former economic advisor to the Department of the Environment and author of The Land Use Planning System, Evaluating Options for Reform.

Published today by the iea.

Currently, rights to develop land are nationalised permission is required from local authorities or national government to develop or change the use of land. As a consequence, simple economic decisions become a breeding ground for intense and occasionally even violent political conflict.

While reform of the planning system is presently underway, none of the proposals will solve the problems inherent in the present system. Indeed, some of the most useful proposals in the government’s Green Paper have been abandoned. Corkindale proposes the privatisation of the land use planning system as the only workable solution.

This would mean economic and not political mechanisms would be used to control development. Holders of legitimate rights to enjoy environmental amenities would be compensated by developers when developments, such as house building, took place. The courts would be given the power to set the level of compensation in the event of a dispute.

In the case of large infrastructure projects, planning authorities should be able to charge developers that impose costs on third parties. However, such charges should not be used to supplement local tax revenues but should be used directly to compensate losers from the development.

In such a privatised land use planning system development would take place if – and only if – it was in the interests of all concerned. The result would be a planning system that was not subject to the vagaries of political decision-making, but properly took into account the costs and benefits of different planning proposals. Socially beneficial development would therefore be allowed to take place, while simultaneously providing a much stronger level of protection for highly-valued environmental amenities.

ends

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