The tide has turned or so it seems the ‘nae sayers’ have retreated to their lairs and the prospects for the property industry are looking brighter.
The economic indicators appear favourable with the Government’s growth forecasts improving. The regeneration sector has started to stir with local authorities looking to be able to deliver development with more than just a hope and a prayer.
Our experience seems to support the view that regeneration ambitions are being taken more seriously than for some considerable time. Our work across both public and private sector demonstrates that there is an appetite to create active partnerships to deliver a development platform that will endure. Assuming this is the direction of travel the public sector needs to consider what it can do to create an environment that will facilitate development, to encourage investors to not only think creatively but deliver creatively.
How can this be achieved? Investors, in our experience, rely on certainty. Uncertainty helps company executive board members unpick a regeneration opportunity in the blink of an eye, unravelling months or years of hard work and promises. Experience has taught me that the public sector can help to prevent this through understanding what the private sector needs, to ensure that they stay the course with projects, and are able to realise the objectives of high quality development.
So, the public sector needs to provide certainty of:
Politics – regeneration is not short term, developers need to see that there is cross party collaboration where delivery objectives will not change when a new council is voted in. A political champion should be created, who will draw together all the resources of the Local Authority to think creatively to resolve conflicts and changes.
Policy – decisions and discussions about planning development standards that have been agreed and settled should remain so.
Planning – a streamlined planning approach should be created in order that planning consent can be delivered to an agreed programme where councillors will not feel the need to unpick the planning application.
Viability – that scheme viability is tested and the policy documents reality tested to ensure that they do not lead to unviable development.
Flexibility – to respond to the vagaries of the market so that delivery does not stall, or a ‘plan B’ implemented.
Aspirations – that should be clearly expressed, understood, costed and pressure tested so that they can be achieved.
However, this means nothing if the private sector starts unpicking policy documents, briefs and agreed standards that have established the aspirations of the community from in-side the tent. Creating the right platform through an understanding of what the market needs in practical terms is imperative.
Practical advice in times like these is what is needed not volumes of policy and reports. Due diligence must be thorough, focused and practical. If this can be achieved to the mutual benefit of all, the public sector can ensure that best value is achieved not only economically but socially.
David Ashworth is co-principal at FoddyConsult