Spring is here, looking forward to the Summer?

As we hopefully emerge from the Pandemic struggle over the next few months, optimism begins to grow like new shoots appearing in the spring.

This could also be true in the world of planning and the opportunities that will present themselves over the next few years.  A standardised housing methodology was the first sign of spring, seeking to bring some degree of certainty to the process of establishing a consistent approach to housing need.  Local authorities are also now emerging from the depths of winter with renewed vigour to progress their Local Plans and the tools to guide development.

This is particularly evident in the boroughs and districts in and around London, with local authorities consulting on draft Local Plans or sending out Call for Site requests, such as Dacourm, Swale, St Albans and Enfield, to name but a few.

Hope is in the air for good times to return.  Could this be the beginning of a new urban renaissance?   As an avid reader of Linked-in articles and success stories of permissions being granted, it does feel like there is a lot of positive signs in the housing world.  This may be seen through rose tinted glasses, but it does bring hope.

Vital to an upturn in housing delivery will be how local authorities progress from a theoretical world of housing number, targets, and site selections, and Local Plans, to doing something very simple, but effective – learning how to say “yes” or “approve” or “permission is granted”.  Too many times, I have sat in a Planning Committee and Council members physically struggle to say word “approve”. It will need a mind-set change by those that make decisions to be pro-active and supportive of development that meets policy and planning requirements.  “A presumption in favour of sustainable development” needs to be the first thing Council members are trained to think when they take their first steps into a Planning Committee, simple but true.

This will be most important in local authorities that have for years undelivered on housing.  When you look back at some Planning Committee’s history of approving housing development, there are some that have only approved a few hundred new properties annually and their new Local Plans are identifying an uplift of a couple of thousand houses that will need to be approved on a year on year basis.  Will Council members be able to say yes to this amount development?

If a mindset of “presumption against all development” can be changed to “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, then there is hope and we will emerge from the depth of winter into a glorious spring and summer.