The Grenfell Tower fire is an appalling tragedy and the loss of so many people in such a preventable accident requires the deepest reflection from everyone who works in the built environment. The implications for planning are complex but there is no doubt that we need to move beyond the dangerous lie that proper regulation is somehow a problem. It is not. Well-directed regulation is key to the safety and well-being of our communities.

In the longer term, we need to respond to the sense of anger from communities who believe that their voice is not heard. Planning must put social justice and equality at its heart, ensuring we strive for diverse and socially-mixed communities. We need to target planning resources to those people in the greatest social need.

As part of this process of reinventing social town planning, we need to re-frame the debate about how communities develop, starting with understanding people’s needs and giving them real power and real hope for a better future. In order to do this, there needs to be three fundamental changes:

  • Firstly, we must build consensus that housing – including housing that is available for social rent, either from a council or housing association – is good for the nation. We must act on a crucial guiding principle: good-quality housing, for people of all incomes and circumstances, is a pillar of a civilised society and that socially mixed communities are far more successful than exclusively poor ones.

  • Secondly, we need consensus on a coherent housing supply model for the future, which should encompass issues of social justice, investment patterns, housing quality, tenure and planning policy. This will require significant changes to the policy and legislative framework to enable councils, for example, to build outstanding, inclusive and genuinely affordable homes.

  • Thirdly, we need consensus about the purpose of planning, and this will require reforming the planning system. The current planning system does not command consensus between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and some of its outcomes are plainly against the long-term public interest. We urgently need to restore a comprehensive framework of place-making standards, and planning policy should be rebalanced to ensure social justice and outcomes for people are just as important as the needs of land-owners and developers.

There is no doubt that we will build new homes in Britain, but the challenge for all of us is whether we have the determination to leave future generations with affordable, sustainable and beautifully designed homes and communities that truly meet the challenges of the 21st century. This means ensuring that the homes we build meet the needs of everyone in society – and it will need us to create a shared sense of purpose and partnership across politics and across sectors if we are to realise this ambition.

For more information about the TCPA’s work on planning and social justice see our planning4people campaign page here