As the UK’s leading regeneration specialist, St. Modwen has significant interests in both the commercial and residential property sectors. It therefore follows that we maintain a very close eye on planning matters that potentially affect our business.
We welcome the government’s introduction of simplified planning policy in the NPPF and the recognition of the need for genuine engagement with communities in the Localism Act – something we have advocated and practised for many years.
Recent announcements on potential changes to Section 106 agreements and the viability of residential sites have also been very welcome. We, like many other landowners and developers have been hit by a combination of falling land prices and an obligation to provide a rising proportion of affordable housing and contributions to a variety of infrastructure requirements that can seriously undermine the viability of proposed development –and consequently contribute to the stalling of projects and the current hiatus in new housing development.
We have been fortunate enough to have worked with a number of exceptional ‘can-do’ authorities who welcome developers and encourage much-needed growth. This approach ensures that planning permissions granted are deliverable.
Birmingham City Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Rugby Borough Council are prime examples of such partnership focused and customer-friendly authorities. We are extremely proud of the productive working relationships we have forged with the officers, members and communities that has facilitated landmark mixed use developments on former industrial sites at Longbridge in Birmingham, Goodyear in Wolverhampton and on several sites in Rugby
Sadly, too often, we are suffering from the opposite; the ‘no-can-do’ approach adopted by certain other LPAs that frustrates growth, alienates developers and leads to stagnation in the property market. Having fully engaged stakeholders, jumped through all the technical hoops, consulted widely and gained officer recommendations, we still face great uncertainty when it comes to planning committees.
Members at some authorities seemingly ignore national guidance, disregard the wider gains and benefits that accrue from growth and overlook incentives such as the New Homes Bonus and employment generated through construction work, all of which leads to challenges, appeals, re-submissions, judicial reviews and, at times, the complete withdrawal of planning applications. Some seem to prefer a Planning Inspector’s decision rather than make a decision themselves which might be the “right” decision but will fly in the face of local action groups – all of which involves significant costs and loss of revenue for councils and diverts money away from investment in local communities.
St. Modwen will continue to work tenaciously to deliver and regenerate neighbourhoods, create communities and generate jobs; working alongside Councils with a “can do” attitude demonstrates what can be delivered when all parties work together in partnership.