Last edited 19 Apr 2015

Making Better Decisions for Places

In November 2014, the Royal Town Planning Institute published Making Better Decisions for Places: Why where we make decisions will be critical in the twenty-first century. This is one of five 'Planning Horizons' papers published during the RTPI's centenary year. The papers take a long term and global view of planning and the major challenges of the 21st Century.

The five Planning Horizons projects are:

RTPI making better decisions for places front cover.jpg

Making Better Decisions for Places identifies a ‘contemporary crisis of government’ and argues that uncoordinated decision-making reduces the effectiveness of our response to major challenges. It suggests that, ‘Decision-makers at all levels need to be brought together to enable the best decisions for places, to ensure that communities are provided with the services and opportunities they need.’

The report presents examples of decisions made at inappropriate levels, and cites case studies where there are better governance arrangements, contrasting Leeds with the City of Malmö in Sweden.

It identifies four common failures:

  • An inappropriate level of decision-making to deal with issues that cross administrative boundaries.
  • Siloed policy and decision-making.
  • Governing by borders rather than functional geographies.
  • A lack of understanding of ‘subsidiarity’, and the importance of having well-resourced institutions.

The report sets out four ‘tests’ for successful devolution that might overcome these failures:

  • Identifying those decisions that have a primarily national impact and those that have a primarily sub-national impact.
  • Allowing policy decisions to be made according to where policies interact.
  • Aligning governance arrangements with functional economic areas rather than administrative borders.
  • Ensuring institutions are suitably equipped and resourced to make and implement decisions.

Cath Ranson, President of the RTPI, said, “Understanding what we want to create for local places requires a whole range of actors in the public, private and third sectors to work together – in particular communities need to be closely involved in decision-making. The challenges of making sustainable, better places won’t be resolved by one organisation alone, or indeed by one profession. Decision-makers at all levels need to be brought together to enable the best decisions for places, to ensure that communities are provided with the services and opportunities they need.”

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