Exploring the measurement of the value created through the planning system (planning value) to better inform decision making at a case, policy and authority level

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

The purpose of planning is to ensure that the right development happens in the right place at the right time, benefitting communities, the economy and the environment. The benefits and value created through planning are critical to the UK but are rarely measured. Without a monetised view of planning value, related decision making is far less informed than it could be, leading to missed opportunities on a case, policy and authority level.

The planning system lacks a reliable method of measuring and quantifying the value it creates, largely due to these challenges:

  • Planning value is very complex. It comprises multiple, disparate elements. Some are financial but many are difficult to quantify and monetise as no market exists for their trading. Such factors are collectively known as ‘non-market value’ (NMV).
  • For any measurement to have use, it must be accurate, consistent and trusted. The latter requires non-technical stakeholders to understand and accept the concept, methodology, base data, interpretation and conclusions of any given system.
  • There is no systematic approach to measuring planning value and few specific tools to assist officers. Previous work has focussed on periodic, retrospective measurement, which is unable to influence a live application.
  • Without a digital tool, the measurement process appears too difficult to undertake regularly. Only through a digital solution can the mass collection, rapid processing and live display of data be achieved.

Several stakeholder groups would benefit from the systematic measurement of planning value. All are represented in our steering group which includes the Office for National Statistics, Royal Town Planning Institute, Town and Country Planning Association, Prof Matthew Carmona from UCL.

Applicants – applicants would have a clearer understanding of how the impacts and benefits of a proposal are weighed and balanced. This would inform their design process, development strategies and future proposals.

Communities – residents would have a monetized view of development in their area. This would clearly show the impact of their elected members and their council’s planning policies. Residents would find it easier to understand planning decisions. All of which would make authorities more accountable.

Officers – planning officers would have more evidence to discuss with applicants when suggesting design changes and mitigation. The full impact of their work would be recognised, improving their professional standing.

Policy teams – policy teams would be able to measure the real-world effects of their policies and the value created by them. Over time, this would allow planning policies to become increasingly effective at achieving their aims.

Local authorities – LAs would have much more information on which to base resource and policy decisions. Activities that aren’t exclusively planning, such as regeneration and ‘Prevent’, could have their planning component targeted and measured in terms of monetised planning value.

We hypothesize that the development of a tool to accurately capture planning value would demonstrate and increase the substantial benefits and value that the planning system contributes to communities, the economy and the environment.

Few tools currently exist to measure planning value. Those that do are not suitable for the systematic use that we envisage. They variously fail to:

  • quantify / monetise the impacts measured
  • measure the full range of planning value factors that we have identified
  • have reliable, scientific base data
  • be efficient for use in a real-time context

The ‘Value of Planning’ project carried out by the RTPI produced a useful toolkit which quantifies and displays the overall benefits of planning in specific districts. Inner Circle Consulting have developed the ‘DNA Analysis & Project Impact’ tool which measures and quantifies the impact of regeneration projects in monetary terms.

These tools address the challenge to an extent, but we believe a complete system would:

  • monetize all impacts measured
  • capture all aspects of planning value
  • consist of digital software which integrates with and automatically captures relevant data from a planning proposal
  • process input data to give a ‘live’ value of a proposal, allowing easy measurement at any stage of the planning process
  • present data in various graphical formats, allowing easy interpretation and interrogation

We propose to research our hypothesis by:

  • Identifying and reviewing existing planning value tools
  • Identifying and reviewing academic research and literature
  • Contacting and exploring our concept with industry experts
  • Conceiving and synthesizing a proto-tool for use in workshops
  • Holding workshops with groups of stakeholders from differing authority areas using the proto-tool to explore their needs, use and aspirations for a fully developed system
  • Evaluating the uses, savings and value creation of such a system
  • Extrapolating our findings to a national level

We envision that after undertaking the discovery phase to explore the problem and confirm a broad user need for a measurement system, we would be able to:

  • design a ‘system of work’, including user journey, that systematically measures the planning value and integrates with existing systems and processes
  • propose a digital tool that captures, interprets and displays planning value
  • propose methodologies for quantifying, interpreting and monetising values
  • propose sources for baseline data

The research would be undertaken on a cross-council basis by:

  • Using shared digital workspaces, such as Trello, GitHub and GoogleDocs
  • Holding research workshops at each partner council
  • Sharing findings and progress throughout the project

As stated above, the purpose of planning is to ensure that the right development happens in the right place at the right time, benefitting communities, the economy and the environment. At present the full value of development, including non-market value, is assessed on the basis of planning judgement. This does not allow for easy comparison between different proposals on the same site, comparison between sites, or for aggregated benefits to be assessed.

The benefits to the UK of operating a quantified assessment of planning value are almost unimaginable. On a case level, developers, planning officers and the local community would know if a proposal is of optimum design, (offering the maximum value possible at a given site). Planning departments would be able to demonstrate the increase in value that their advice and determination services create. Managers would be better able to seek out and share best practice among staff and across authorities. Policy teams would be able to see the impact of their policies, monitor their outputs and adjust accordingly. Local authorities would be able to see a clear return on investment in their planning teams and regeneration projects.

In combination, the benefits are simply too great for us to quantify at present. However, we believe the annual cost to the UK is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds, largely in missed opportunities. We would seek to quantify the associated current costs and potential savings for each of the stakeholder groups across each of the involved authorities during the discovery phase. We would then scale these to a national figure.

The project would use a hybrid waterfall / agile methodology. That is to say, the major phases of work would be set out at the start, but the day to day project would be run in an agile way; responding to stakeholder inputs and project findings.

We would use collaborative workspaces to share progress among the partners.

External communications would be managed via a project website, including a project overview, team details, regular progress updates, media releases, an online community and digital roadmaps. See section 2.9 below for details.

Each partner would have a representative on a governance team with regular meetings/conference calls to monitor progress and engagement.

No additional support is required.