The planning system

The Ramblers’ position on the planning system in England

The planning system must favour people, climate and nature 

The planning system helps to shape and control development our towns, cities and countryside. It is fundamental to much of the work the Ramblers does to protect paths and green spaces.  We work to ensure that footpaths and green spaces are easy for people to access and that they are well-maintained and well-connected. 

The purpose of the planning system isn’t set out in law as it is for many other regulations. This can allow landowners and developers to build what benefits them most, rather than what may best meet the needs of the community. Communities should have the opportunity to address challenges such as a lack of paths and green spaces, affordable homes, climate change and helping nature recover.    


What we want to see in the future  

We believe we must put people, climate and nature at the heart of town and country planning. The purpose of planning should be to support communities and help them thrive now, and for future generations. This purpose should be set out in law.  

But this won’t solve all the current problems. We will also need: 

  • Better policy and guidance to make sure that the purpose of planning translates into better planning decisions within communities.  

  • More funding and support for local authority planning departments. 

  • Better and easier ways for people to have their say in local planning decisions. 


What action is needed 

The Ramblers are calling on the UK government to make planning reform a key part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda.  

We are members of the Better Planning Coalition, an alliance of 26 charities, organisations and business groups working across the climate, nature, built environment, heritage and transport sectors.  Together we are campaigning for a planning system fit for climate, nature and people.  

The coalition has ‘Six tests for planning’. These aim to ensure the planning system prioritises:  

  1. Local democracy and community engagement
    The planning system should retain and enhance genuine and accessible community participation and accountability in all areas throughout the planning process  

  1. Genuinely affordable housing for social rent.   
    The planning system should deliver an evidenced strategy to build genuinely affordable homes.  It should also provide local authorities with the power to turn down developments which do not deliver affordable housing. 

  1. Climate and sustainable development
    The planning system should accelerate climate action to meet the UK’s net zero targets and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  It should also ensure that local planning authorities are empowered to deliver ambitious, climate-friendly developments. 

  1. Biodiversity and nature’s recovery
    The planning system should protect sites that are important for biodiversity and nature’s recovery.  It should require all developments to enhance nature 

  1. Beauty and heritage.  
    The planning system should ensure that heritage and designated landscapes are safeguarded against inappropriate development. It should ensure developers prioritise their enhancement. 

  1. Health, wellbeing and access to natural green space
    Human health, wellbeing and equality should be embedded in the planning system.  This should include priorities for access to natural green space, active travel and reducing air pollution 

As a charity, you can support our work to protect and improve the walking environment by donating or becoming a member.   Together we’ll increase access to green spaces, open up more places to walk and boost Britain’s wellbeing one step at a time.