The housing crisis: planning as opportunity

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend Place North West’s Northern SME Housebuilders’ Lunch, at the fantastic People’s History Museum (if you haven’t been, go!) in Manchester. In many ways, the event was a welcome reminder that the goals of the Government and the development sector are increasingly aligned, even if there are differences of opinion about the number of houses that we need to build.

That’s not to say that everything is rosy, of course. To say everyone in the development sector is in favour of development is a bit like noting that everyone in a buffet queue wants to eat: they do, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some jostling as everyone tries to get the richest pickings. The focus was on finance, but it was telling that the planning process was discussed solely in terms of whether or not it was an obstacle – for the ‘right site’, planning is very straightforward; for the wrong it is a complication.

As a communications professional, this seems to me to miss the mark: planning, and in particular public consultation, can be a real opportunity. In the recent Lloyds report Building for Growth, opposition to construction projects was identified by 42% of respondents as an obstacle to alleviating the housing shortage, the second-most-common answer; opposition to building on greenfield/brownfield sites (in itself an odd category, as people often feel quite differently about the two) was cited as a problem by 34% of respondents.

Tellingly, these were wrapped up in a section on the housing shortage. The following section, on economic and political factors, addresses only economic policy. If we can change our approach from viewing the public and their elected representatives as planning obstacles to political factors that can be addressed through conversation and persuasion, then we can turn a problem to an opportunity. Engaging local communities in genuine conversations about while they still have an opportunity to shape them can help secure community buy-in, something we see every day here at Remarkable.

If you want to be part of changing that conversation about development, then come and talk to us about how we can help you work with communities that work for you, work for them, and help us – as a region and a country – towards the vital development we sorely need.


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