The Value of Planning

Imagine if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to propose a budget based solely on public expenditure, without taking any account of taxation. Or if a household were to construct its finances simply on the basis of what it spent, ignoring what it earned. Too often, however, reputable economists and politicians attack planning on the basis of what it costs, without making any attempt to assess its benefits.

We desperately need to improve the quality of this debate by thinking about the costs and benefits of planning in the round and seeing what can be done to produce greater benefits from planning at less cost. That report therefore takes a more holistic view of what is meant by ‘planning’ and to set out some directions about how we might arrive at a more robust analysis of its costs and benefits.

Project report now available to download:

The Value of Planning (PDF)

‘Planning’, as the report indicates, is about much more than development management. The report sees planning as the deployment of policy instruments that seek to shape, regulate and stimulate market behaviour, while also building the capacity to do so. This means that we should think about planning strategies, masterplans, town centre management, and land assembly by compulsory purchase, for example, as equally significant aspects of the planning system as the regulation of individual development projects.

Often, these various instruments work together and reinforce each other. When they work well, they balance certainly and flexibility for developers, landowners, investors and other market actors. Indeed, as research has often shown, market actors see value in investing in well-planned areas where planning strategies and actions reinforce market confidence.

Unfortunately, some of the most widely-quoted economic studies of planning have focused primarily on supply-side effects of planning, and ignored these demand-side effects. If market prices are indeed higher because of planning, part of the reason could well be because planning creates public goods that are greatly valued by consumers. The report therefore proposes future research directions to help discover the likely balance between the costs and benefits of planning.


  • Prof David Adams (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)
  • Prof Craig Watkins (Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield

Project Dates

October 2013 to June 2014


Royal Town Planning Institute (£25,000)