Chris Balch,
Chris Balch,

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) South West has commissioned Plymouth University and consultants Hardisty Jones Associates to study the work of all the six Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the South West, and the potential for them to play a bigger role in the region’s devolution. 

The study will examine in detail the LEPs activities in the region, explore how the LEPs are working with the local authorities and how this can be improved, as well as identify the scope for LEPs to improve their contribution to strategic planning. 

Paul Barnard, Chair of the RTPI in the South West, said: 

'As devolution gathers momentum, LEPs have considerable potential to support the strategic planning work of local authorities across different policy areas such as infrastructure, housing and employment. This is a timely study into how we can use LEPs to help shape the region’s future.'
'The widely differing local economic, planning and institutional contexts of the LEPs in the South West, from the Cornwall unitary authority, the functional Bristol city region and the mixed tier authorities in the heart of the SW and Dorset, to the two-tier system in Gloucestershire and unitary authorities in Wiltshire, suggest there could be a mix of approaches and possible solutions that would be of interest not just regionally but nationally.'

Chris Balch, Professor of Planning at Plymouth University, said:

'Plymouth University is delighted to have been selected to undertake this research project. LEPs have an important role to play in promoting growth and wealth creation across the South West region which faces a wide variety of economic and market opportunities and challenges. Understanding the nature of the relationship between LEPs and the planning system is key to ensuring that growth is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.'
'Lessons learnt from the research will help inform debate on how to deliver more effective working across boundaries in the rapidly developing planning landscape in the South West and beyond.' 

LEPs are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and businesses set up in 2011 by central government to help determine economic priorities and lead economic growth and job creation within the local area. To date there are 39 LEPs in operation nationally. They provide a ‘business perspective’ on planning matters, and LEPs’ priorities and decisions have important implications for local planning. 

Plymouth University’s research team includes Professor Chris Balch, Dr Gareth Jones and Mary Elkington. The research, which will involve a combination of desk research, interviews and case studies, will take six months with a final report due by the end of January 2016. The research team will be contacting LEPs and local authorities over the coming months.