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Look at place to solve poverty, say town planners

‘Place poverty’ is a crucial and overlooked aspect of improving people’s life chances, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said in a new report.

The RTPI report argues that the traditional ‘people-based’ approach to welfare policies treats poverty as an individual issue and ignores the fact that impoverished communities are more likely to live in environments which increase their chances of poor health and life chances.

This could be due to factors including air pollution, lack of green spaces, higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour, poorer quality schools and lack of access to public transport and jobs.

Trudi Elliott, RTPI chief executive, said: “Many of the root causes of deprivation and social inequality are bound up in the poor quality of neighbourhoods – places that have no employment and lack community amenities, are poorly connected or simply run down.

“Good planning is the one tool in our hands that can make places increase people’s opportunities and help lift them from poverty.”

However, the RTPI report showed that four in 10 local authorities failed to include poverty and social exclusion in their local plans.

The report also found central government is placing less of an emphasis on place poverty. For example, DCLG spending on regeneration programmes fell from £11.1bn in 2009-10 to £3.8bn in 2011-12.

The RTPI added that many regeneration programmes failed to achieve their goals because they focused on a particular area concentrated on creating jobs and not addressing human factors.

Elliott added that devolution was an “opportunity” for local authorities to change their attitude to planning in order to better tackle poverty.

The RTPI recommended that devolution deals, Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs), local plans and even universities should seek to promote social justice as well as economic growth.

It added that poverty strategies should be adapted to the needs of individual places and data on poverty should factor in place poverty.

The RTPI warned last year that LEPs are being held back by their ‘unclear status’ and lack of familiarity with town planning.

The current edition of PSE contains an article by Locality CEO Tony Armstrong on NHS England’s new ‘healthy towns’ initiative, which is designed to make planning more supportive of healthy lifestyles.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Images)


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