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Planning and Environmental Management

Evidence improves methods to monitor planning policies

Our development of new methodologies changed the way governments and international organisations monitor their spatial planning policies. Local planning authorities in the UK were subsequently required to comply with practices based on our recommendations.

Our work has also helped shape professional debate, thinking and practices among international bodies including the World Bank, the European Commission, and the United Nations

image of a field with a wooden gate and the number 394 overlaid in white text
394 English local planning authorities are required to comply with policy monitoring guidelines.

A series of research projects has developed new methodologies that improve the technical and statistical analysis of indicators on the impact of spatial planning and development policies. The findings of this work have led to a step change in policy monitoring practices in Britain, including:

  • The publication of a good practice guide on monitoring, to which all 394 English local planning authorities were required to comply, based on six design principles identified by the research
  • A shift in ethos by English local planning authorities in  the way they use their annual monitoring reports in overall strategic planning and policy-making
  • A contribution to the wholesale reform of spatial planning, embodied in the 2004 Spatial Planning Act
  • The development of a Strategic Planning Outcome monitoring framework with emphasis on outcomes (rather than outputs) for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Royal Town Planning Institute
  • A shift in the mind-set and practice of spatial policy monitoring towards collaborative, reflexive and double loop learning (i.e. question the goals while solving the problem)
  • The publication of A Map for England as a contribution to the UK Government’s preparation of the National Planning Policy Framework, offering an effective visual tool to help identify the spatial synergies and conflicts of government policies, programmes and initiatives
  • The presentation of evidence to the Growth and Infrastructure Public Bill Committee, highlighting particularly UK National Parks, alongside the East of England, as areas suffering from poor superfast broadband access

The research has also contributed to professional debate, thinking and practice at an international scale. Our researchers have offered advice to bodies including the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations. Professor Wong and Dr Baker are currently involved in an international consultancy team led by Nanjing University in China, to develop an innovative indicator framework to monitor progress of the Shantou Master Plan.

Our research

Map of the world with 100% overlaid in white text
100% of English planning authorities agree indicators should measure planning policy outcomes.

In the 1970s most research into policy monitoring typically focused on national indices, rather than methodologies and indicators, to inform spatially-oriented urban and regional policies.

Our research team has developed powerful techniques to analyse the impact of policies at a regional level by:

  • Integrating a learning and analytical approach to policy monitoring
  • Using principal component analysis to develop composite indices
  • Improving the understanding of policy concepts
  • Linking the analysis to different socio-political contexts
  • Using visual interpretation (e.g. analysis of multi-layered maps)
  • Engaging key stakeholders in the process to develop a comprehensive framework

Key people

Further information