Is Strategic Planning Too Hard?

Where are the strategic planning success stories?

In the aftermath of the age of the localism bill a lack of strategic planning was seen as the sine qua non solution to lack of housing and lack of joined up thinking.

You don’t hear that very much today.  There is lots and lost of strategic planning – very little of it is found sound.  Even bigger problem is that of ‘failure to launch’ strategic plans years in perpetration which never see the light of day and which may never see the light of day.  There are manifold technical reasons for this failure, from DTC fails (predictable) to options chosen failing to be found sound.  In some recent cases the big strategic choices were left to the next round of joint strategic planning, such as St Albans and South Bucks, but inspectors had to judge the plans in front of them.  However very few cases of joint planning, with a few notable exceptions such as South West Devon, South Worcestershire etc. have got through and where they have they have carried forward strategies hatched a decade ago, sometimes in the last round of structure plans.

This failure of strategic planning was the subject of my lecture tour when I was last visiting England a couple of months ago and my forthcoming book.  Basically the planning profession has not risen to the challenge of developing new methodologies for strategic planning and has gotten bogged down.  Groups of planners sit in rooms, having spent decades hating each other and are expected to work together like a cutting edge start up, when in most cases they simply have adopted working methods and techniques from small scale local plans.  Predictably it hasn’t worked out well.

The problem has shifted.  It is not lack of strategic planning.  Strategic planning is broken.  It needs to be remade.

2 thoughts on “Is Strategic Planning Too Hard?

  1. We have lost the art of strategic planning, as Andrew suggests, which is one of the reasons our towns and cities lag behind their Continental equivalents. In Good Cities:Better Lives Sir Peter Hall and I provided a wealth of case studies to show how others did it better. The key is collaboration between adjoining authorities which would be greatly assisted if only communities were able to fund local infrastructure again. Hence I hope your new book will also refer to necessity of reforming the way British local authorities fund development and to the potential for Land Value Capture in areas of high housing demand,
    Our web site http://www.smarterurbanisation.org as well as http://www.urbedtrust.com provides case studies as well as my blog Postcardsfromthefuture

  2. As a rank amateur in all of this, with only the experience of planning committees, summer schools, conferences and most recently, 21 days of our Local Plan’s examination in public, the glaring omission in all of this appears to be a ‘big picture’. What do we think England should actually look like? Where should major infrastructure projects be focussed for the longterm benefit of the country and why? How do concentrate the development of significant housing growth Into the right locations in order to rebalance the country? Without a strategic plan for England, county structure plans, regional spatial strategies and definitely the duty to cooperate, were all just bits of a miss matched jigsaw puzzle.

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