Excellence in planning research for USP academics

Congratulations to Emeritus Professor Tony Crook and Professor John Henneberry from our Department of Urban Studies and Planning (USP) for winning this year’s coveted Excellence in Planning Research Award for their book Planning Gain: Providing Infrastructure and Affordable Housing.

The award is made annually by the Royal Town Planning Institute, the global learned society and professional institute of chartered planners, following peer review of the best of the year’s planning research by leading academics and practitioners.

The accolade honours the high quality and policy relevance of Professor Crooks’ and Professor Henneberry's work on planning obligations in collaboration with co-author Professor Christine Whitehead at London School of Economics.

Professor Crook said: "WJohn and Tonye are delighted to have won this award. It recognises the longstanding tradition in our department of undertaking theoretically rigorous, policy relevant research, working closely with our colleagues in the policy and practice communities.

“As a result of this collaboration, the research reported in the book has had significant policy impact and secured major public expenditure savings as it showed policy makers how they could replace public spending with contributions made by private developers.

“We were particularly pleased when Dame Kate Barker agreed to write the foreword to the book as she has undertaken two major reviews of housing and planning policy for central government and made many recommendations about the subject matter of our book. We are very proud indeed that she describes the book as making a 'tremendous contribution' to the subject and being ‘highly important'."

Professor Malcolm Tait, Head of the Department of Urban Studies & Planning, said: “This award is highly deserved recognition of the work of Tony Crook, John Henneberry and colleagues into this crucial element of planning policy and practice.

"It is testament to the department's aim to carry out highly policy relevant research underpinned by a rigorous theoretical and conceptual foundation, and caps a highly successful year for the department in terms of its research, which saw the highest level ever in its history of competitive research funds won by staff.”

Research included in their text has been carried out over a period of two decades examining the principles and the incidence of planning obligations as well as calculating their value and monitoring their delivery. Collectively, this is known as planning gain. It requires developers to contribute to the funding of infrastructure, affordable housing and other community facilities as a condition of securing planning permission.

Planning obligations became a major source of this funding; for example, £5bn in 2007–08 in England. The research found that most of what has been agreed is delivered and that the costs of developers’ obligations are often borne by landowners through the achievement of lower prices for development land.

The research also shows how planning authorities have been able to negotiate much more substantial funding from developers on a case-by-case basis than has ever been collected by nationally imposed taxes on development values in the several post war attempts to collect these.

The work was commissioned by a wide range of organisations, including research councils and charities, government departments, and trade and professional bodies. Practitioners and policy makers helped design the research to secure its policy relevance.

The impact of the work ranges from articles in research and professional journals, papers at professional and academic conferences, submissions to government consultations and parliamentary select committees’ inquiries, as well as briefings for the policy and practice communities (local and central government and the legal, planning and property professions).

The resulting book tells the story of how planning obligations became an effective means of capturing development value and of securing affordable housing and infrastructure funding from developers in a way that is accessible both to other researchers and to policy professionals.

Our Department of Urban Studies & Planning is the leading planning school in the UK attested by its top ratings in research and research impact, teaching quality and student satisfaction. Its courses are accredited by both the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.