“Never let a good crisis go to waste”

5th June 2020

Richard Garland, Head of our Planning, Architecture and Development team looks at the relevance of this famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill to those with development property interests.

There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. True but there is another, getting planning permission takes ages. Whilst we have seen some reduction in the amount of activity on short term site purchases and development, there has been very little reduction in the number of long term projects we are working on. Land promotion and the process of planning new developments including new towns takes many years and will be expected to span a number of economic cycles. It is therefore not surprising that those involved are doing everything they can to press on with their promotion, particularly as they may be well placed to fill some of the ‘delivery void’ caused by any prolonged economic downturn.

Those with sites of all types can learn from this approach which may be more applicable than it seems. Whilst considerably shorter, the typical journey of a smaller site through planning permission frequently takes over a year. That process can be extended significantly if sites first require promotion towards a local plan or detailed site assembly or long term survey work. Add onto that delays in sorting legal title issues access rights, restrictive covenants in advance of the sale or commencing development, or just the dreaded delay in planning and it can be considerably longer.

Even the longest recession in UK history only lasted five quarters. Once the market returned in 2009 and 2010, we saw competition for sites increase due to a lack of supply, leading to those with good quality sites with permission able to command a premium. For those planning to use the sale of a property to fund or assist retirement or business shifts, planning ahead is even more important.

So what should you be doing with your land and property now to make the most of the situation? In a series of three articles Richard Garland gives his top five tips under the three service areas of Planning, Architecture, and Development within which the GFW team operate:

Planning

  1. For those with permissions live now, there is a chance that you may not be able to deal with that permission as quickly as you would normally, often leading to a real chance of it expiring. Changing local plans can lead to expired permissions not being renewed. At the least renewals are expensive. Consider clarifying planning conditions now and what could be done to commence permission and keep it alive. Satisfying planning conditions also make developments more saleable or quicker to start if you intend to build out.
  2. For permissions that have significant s106, CIL, affordable housing or other onerous conditions that affect their financial viability, there exists a mechanism where these can be reviewed. Viability work needs to be assessed and approached carefully and with expertise. Our experience is that it can assist in saving considerable amounts of money which allow marginal sites to become viable and come forward.
  3. For those with sites with potential, use this time to start the local plan promotion process. Changes to the national planning policy framework in 2012, introduced to get the UK building again saw sites approved which we had previously taken a 25-year view on. Housing numbers will come under scrutiny and Planning Authorities will need to show they can deliver numbers even if there is a prolonged slowdown.
  4. Local plan promotion can start with just a red line boundary on a plan. However, successful promotion is a skillset in its own right. Demonstrating that site constraints have been overcome from the start is vital and will make your site stand out. Professionally prepared visual material is invaluable in demonstrating key parameters.
  5. Local plans have a typical 5-year review cycle and a number of those are coming up. At a time when the delivery is under question, that may present opportunities. Getting prepared and the site on the ‘radar’ of local planning authorities is vital to stand any chance. ‘Red line’ only plans submitted in haste rarely attract attention.

Over the next few weeks we will explore the Architecture and Development disciplines. To discuss this article or specific issues relating to your site please contact:

Richard Garland
07738 196051

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