14th February 2019

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Dialogue - It's The Only Way Developers Can Engender Trust With Communities, Planning Officers & Politicians

David Gelling, Managing Director

I've just read the Damian Wilds' Editorial Comment from the 2nd Feb issue of EG, and, oh boy, does his message resonate...Damian speaks of public trust or the lack of it in the planning system.  Trust, you see, is the basis of all human interaction and we, the development industry, have fundamentally failed to explain to wider society how we are often the solution to a problem, not the cause of it.

I recently spoke about this at an industry conference at the Guildhall in Cambridge.  We are all entrapped by the town planning system; communities, politicians, planning officers and developers.  We operate in a system that encourages confrontation rather than collaboration.  A system that leads to distrust between planning officers and developers; communities and politicians.  I believe the only way we can break this cycle is for us, the developers, to explain the positive benefits of what we bring to society.  To really describe in a way that touches the emotions of our customers how we can enhance their lives.  We create, from our own imagination, force of will and financial risk, places to work; open spaces; homes; community buildings; hospitals; schools; universities; leisure centres; pubs; restaurants - the complete built environment that society needs to function.  We do it - not town planners, not politicians and not communities.  It is, therefore, our responsibility to step up to the plate and explain the positive impact of what we do for society. And this message needs to be delivered to all of those entrapped by the town planning system in a way that engenders trust.  Only then can we fix this negative, adversarial town planning system that we all suffer under.

We, at This Land, are on a mission to take this message wide and far.  At the pre-app stage, our Development Managers explain to the planning officers the financial equation that each scheme sits within; how much money is available to support public good such as a contribution to libraries, schools, surgeries, highways, drainage and how much can be set aside to subsidise the delivery of affordable homes.  This manages expectations from day one, allowing officers and developers to understand the viability of a scheme and the appropriate mix of public good that should flow from the project.  We also have a dedicated partnerships team who engage with politicians, the community and any other interested group.  Their job is to listen, absorb feedback and to explain how we can deliver solutions and positive outcomes for the community. 

The development industry will get there one day, and it starts now with the likes of Grosvenor, U&I, This Land and many others leading the way.