An idea for a new board game for a new age. Move over Monopoly but we might well steal the name ‘Frustration’. My new board game would have players vying to navigate the complexities of the UK planning system. Win the game and provide happy, healthy sustainable communities, lose the game and contribute to decaying housing stocks and mass homelessness. Player’s risk losing investments at every step of the way, but winners create flourishing areas of innovation and economic wealth. Watch out, you do not wish to be sent to LPA Purgatory!
Unfortunately, this game is not just a concept. It is something the industry is already grappling with, and increasingly struggling to win at. And winning for our industry really is winning for communities. Every new home, job provided, and community benefit is of public value and unfortunately, this message is not getting across effectively. The news from the Home Builders Federation that planning permission for new homes has fallen by a record low of 19% in the first half of 2023, is testament to many failures, from national government policy, local implementation, and poor local engagement and buy-in from communities. Picking up a ‘Chance’ card saying ‘Unsubstantiated rumours of NPPF changes has delayed your scheme, take 20 steps back’ feels all too familiar.
We could talk all day about the various causes of the fall in planning approvals. But how do we solve them and start winning?
1. All Politics is Local
You need to be engaging with key local politicians at an early stage with messages that will appeal to them, their priorities, and the communities they represent. This can require specialist research. If you are in doubt, contact us at DevComms to receive complementary advice on your scheme.
2. Community Care
Community engagement for developers has in the past felt like just another step of the game. This is changing as the industry recognises that talking to local people has benefits for everyone. This is something which I feel strongly about. It is infinitely better that the community has a say in local developments because that helps to change industry perceptions at a local level. It helps to educate and inform the public on a complex topic. This is our industry and our responsibility to demonstrate care for the existing communities.
3. Sharing is Caring
Even where vast levels of community input are not possible, communicating with residents should be. Sharing plans, offering dedicated, accessible communication channels and providing residents with a voice are all usually appreciated locally. Some schemes are very controversial, and you will not always be able to ‘win over’ your local community. However, just being able to communicate effectively and openly can help to alleviate many potential hurdles and allow residents to feel heard.
4. Advocate and Educate
I am done accepting responsibility for previous industry poor practice which has led to mass distrust of developers and an easy scapegoat for politicians. As an industry, a strong collective voice is needed to communicate the wide-ranging benefits to the public that we deliver day in and day out. DevComms new Public Affairs Service offers businesses the chance to shape and influence policy through engagement with policymakers-a service which the industry increasingly needs.
In truth, the stakes for our industry are far higher than any game. It is a national scandal that in times of record demand for new homes, planning permissions are at a record low. We need to take some responsibility for this and work within our immediate power to make a change locally, influencing national policy and communicating the wider public good of development more generally.
BY JADE UKO