HGH Consulting


Uncertain Times

Reporting from a recent conference on residential development, Roger Hepher discusses the five main points of consensus.

The annual Planning and Viability conference (now called the ‘‘Resi Planning Conference’) took place earlier this week. With an attendance of more than 200, it was addressed by the Chief Planner and featured contributions from a number of leading figures from across the property world, both public and private sector.

Points of Consensus

It was an interesting barometer of current thinking. Views inevitably varied, but there was also a notable amount of consensus on certain matters:

1. Stability

Just about everyone wants to see stability in the planning system. There was dismay at the possibility of substantial “reform”, and even greater dismay at the prospect of significant deregulation. The prevailing view from developers, investors and planners alike is that the planning system does a lot that is good and useful, and it needs to be encouraged and strengthened rather than fundamentally altered.

2. Resources

There is a serious resourcing problem, and it isn’t just about money. There simply aren’t enough planners in the system, or entering it. There are various reasons for this, but a big effort needs to be made to present planning as an interesting and creative career choice, both for young people at the start of their careers and older people who may be inclined to change career.

3. Climate Change

Many local authorities have declared a Climate Emergency. However, this is all too often empty rhetoric. When faced with planning proposals that would further the cause of combatting climate change, no special weight is given to that fact.

4. A Clear Agenda

There are many players involved in planning, with many different agendas. In recent times, for instance, Natural England have emerged as a much more influential party than ever before. We need to empower planning officers to be confident enough to balance competing claims/objections, and to ensure Committee members are trained properly to ensure that planning decisions are always taken on proper planning grounds.

5. Developer Contributions

People are open-minded about the proposed Infrastructure Levy, but it clearly is not a panacea, and there are many reasons why it may ultimately be concluded that the existing CIL + s106 system is actually better.

The hope is that these messages filter into Government and take root as policy is reviewed and recast over the next few days and weeks.



Roger Hepher, Executive Director, hgh Consulting
[email protected]

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