Three reasons why communication is the key to development approval
A growing population and a Government focus on housebuilding means an increased need for suitable development sites in the UK. The housing boost is necessary to meet the country’s housing needs, but local communities are often opposed to the idea of new developments.
Securing a speedy planning permission can be heavily reliant on achieving community buy-in, plus it’s important for housebuilders to maintain a positive reputation in the area where they could potentially be selling homes.
Andrew Gore, planning director at Marrons Planning, explains why communication is vital to development approval:
1. Products can be showcased
Gathering the community together gives developers the opportunity to explain the benefits of the development, while promoting the houses and possibly generating sales through word of mouth in the process. Helping residents to visualise the final product can reduce the initial fear of change and bring them around to the developers’ way of thinking, or at least lessen their resistance to a degree.
2. Concerns can be addressed
Although not an obligation, developers are encouraged by Local Planning Authorities and other planning professionals to invite community members to public exhibitions or stakeholder workshops. This way, residents can ask any questions they may have about the development, allowing concerns to be addressed and reassurance to be given, which may lead to a drop in objection numbers in some cases.
3. Compromises can be reached
If a specific concern consistently arises, a compromise can be made that suits both parties’ needs. However, depending on the arrangements surrounding the deal, changes that result in reduced dwelling numbers or additional community facilities can be met with resistance from landowners or agents who want to maximise development coverage and therefore land value.
Speaking to landowners and agents can help to manage expectations right from the outset before any option or promotion agreements are entered into, although it is appreciated that this can be difficult at the start of the process where developers are bidding against other more bullish developers for the opportunity to promote the land in question.
Some developers are unsure of whether the time and financial costs of community engagement are worth the less than certain prospect of reducing the amount of objections to a scheme; however, they should certainly give thorough community engagement full consideration and see it as an opportunity to align with the Local Planning Authority’s preferred approach, make some small gains with the local community and showcase the developer’s product at the same time. The results of effective communication can be beneficial for all involved in a development scheme.