Sandy Livingstone

COMMENT | Making most of calm before planning storm

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Once again, our industry awaits a planning bill that promises to be radical, writes Sandy Livingstone of Onward Homes. We are being warmed up for a big departure from our familiar landscape: local plans with zones and more teeth; a localised and value-based infrastructure levy; new codes and standards on design, build and quality. So how do we steer our ships into these winds of change?

Window of opportunity

The Planning Bill will emerge in the months ahead and endure plenty of turbulence on its passage through Parliament. Debate will rage on the perceived rolling back of local control over applications. Once the Bill is enacted, a new wave of local plan making will be unleashed and take three years to work through the system. Our friends at the Planning Inspectorate and High Court will enjoy testing the outputs of our collective endeavour.

Despite the long journey ahead, familiar seas remain to be navigated before the winds of change are upon us. We must focus on what we can control and on the art of the possible in the years ahead.

Partnership working

At Onward Homes we take inspiration from the words of a US President; do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Our starting point is something that we know works and always will: long-term partnership working.

We create mixed-tenure communities to support every housing aspiration at every stage of life, from flats to family homes, and from affordable rent to home ownership. Our dedicated sales brand, Onward Living, has sold out two years in a row.

Our recently approved scheme for 449 homes at Basford, in Cheshire East, shows what can be achieved when you get relationships right. Planning is never as straightforward as we would want. Cheshire presents its own challenges and some noise to cut through, amplified by the shifting sands of housing need assessment and a tight local election to come in 2023. We got the job done by persistently, patiently, and closely working with Cheshire East’s planners and our partners at Lane End. Our team is now on site delivering a scheme of strategic significance.

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Councillors pushed us hard on detail, design and sustainability. This was a welcome test and something we will see plenty more of in the years ahead. It is an advantage for us that our approach tilts towards maximising positive local impact in a way that is difficult for commercial home builders to match.

Onward is looking for fellow travellers to make the most of this period of calm. We work with partners in lots of different ways, including package deals, land-led development and acquisitions.

With funding in place, and local knowledge across the North West, work with us to learn from our success and you too can be ready to move on opportunities across the region.

  • OnwardSandy Livingstone is Executive Director of Property at Onward Homes

Onward is one of the biggest developing housing associations in the North. We are working with a range of partners to deliver 5,000 new homes by 2030 and we eagerly anticipate confirmation of our Strategic Partnership with Homes England.

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