Policy areas


The planning system has a key role in protecting the character of land, including restricting even 'common good' projects where necessary. However, new models of land use will require new thinking. We think that common good land use is essential to delivering the sustainable development objective of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In our recent report on the planning system, we explore the main barriers to common good land use in the planning system, and the opportunities for change and improvement.

   Key issues:

  • Common good land users can struggle to engage with the planning system. They regularly report finding planning processes inaccessible and lacking in transparency.
  • Innovative new models meet resistance. Many common good land users pursue unfamiliar models. This can mean proposed developments get unfairly rejected as being non-essential or because projects are seen as unviable.
  • Planning does not sufficiently consider the social, economic and environmental value created by common good land use.
  • Common good land users often have fewer resources than other groups engaging with the planning system
Land-based social enterprises can create jobs, improve landscapes and natural capital, and help manage land well even in a time of austerity. However, they can only do this if the planning system recognises their needs and helps shape an environment in which they can flourish.

What needs to change:

  1. Local Planning Authorities need to make the planning process more accessible by:
    • Producing clear policies and guidance documents, for example on definitions of sustainable development, and business viability
    • Increasing opportunities for free pre-application advice
    • Thinking about supporting common good land use when making planning decisions
  2. National planning policy could do more to recognise and support the value of common good land use models and practitioners. This might include:
    • New material considerations focused on social and ecological land use
    • Supporting Low Impact Developments
    • Giving preferential treatment to not-for-private-profit applicants
  3. Common good land users must engage more with key policy and practice. This means:
    • Writing applications with these policies in mind
    • Presenting clear long-term plans and business models
    • Contributing to Neighbourhood and Local Plan-making

What we’re doing:

  • Better Land-Based Economies: this project follows three food growing groups trying to access land. Successful engagement with planning authorities is a key part of this journey, and we are collecting lessons and evidence on it.
  • Woodland Social Enterprises and the Planning System is a piece of research commissioned as part of Making Local Woods Work. We’re exploring how planning impacts these groups and developing guidance.

Further resources:

Scroll down to the posts below to read the latest updates on our work in this policy area.

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Related publications

Research reports and publications written by the Shared Assets team

Related news and opinion

Blog articles, news and opinion pieces from the Shared Assets team

New report: Planning common good land use

Planning should support land-based enterprises to contribute towards sustainable development. These organisations can deliver common good land use, but they need the planning system to recognise the value of their approach and support them to flourish. This report is an attempt to show how that can be possible and get us closer to planning for the common good.

Read more

#Planning4People Manifesto Launch

#Planning4People aims to rebuild planning to focus on meeting people’s needs. We recently attended the launch event in London and here our policy officer Tom reflects on what he learned and its importance for common good land use.

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The skills needed to make land work

Lacking any one of the many skills needed to run a land-based social enterprise can block progress. This applies to social entrepreneurs without the requisite land management experience, experienced land managers who need to develop new business models and even landowning organisations who may lack the expertise to manage their land strategically.

Read more

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