Tag Archive: Richard Garland

Welcome to “the Future”

Whilst reflecting on the new year ahead, a conversation with my 10-year-old daughter got me thinking. According to the ONS life expectancy calculator, statistically there is a very good chance that my children’s generation will still be around in the year 2100.

That took me straight back to my own childhood and wondering what life would be like in the year 2000, my young imagination running overdrive over living in “the future” – travelling by flying car and the domestic chores done by robot. The reality is that we are now 20 years beyond the millennium and despite being a ‘space date’, life in 2020 does feel remarkably similar (including having to unload the dishwasher) to an observer from 40 years ago.

However, events towards the end of the last decade precipitated some market changes to the point where they are now a reality for our region, our business and our clients.

Commercial property wise, we have seen an uneven trend to the flow of high street bank valuations during the Brexit epoch. There is a significant amount of alternative investment being placed, including joint ventures and use of private equity, to deliver some great projects across the region.

We are starting to see some output from the strategic planning and investment by the Combined Authorities and Mayoral posts. Our commercial property team have recently been appointed as property managers for the commercial property at Teesside International Airport, under the progressive alliance between the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Stobart Group, one of a number of exciting initiatives driving commercial development and job creation in the north east.

The development land market has proved stable and we saw a number of completions of significant residential development sites over the past year. We secured planning consent and sold land for 200 units at Killingworth to Avant Homes, as well as completions to Bellway and Barratt Homes. We are seeing Housing Associations being an increasingly active contributor in the market.

On the planning front, we are helping a number of clients ready themselves for future Local Plan reviews. The timing of reviews is interesting, with three combined Authorities now on-line and with ambitious growth plans. Our combined offering of planning and valuation expertise alongside market knowledge and experience of setting up delivery partnerships is in strong demand to demonstrate deliverability.

Regional house builders and self–build plots still feature importantly in the north east market. Figures from the Federation of Master Builder’s House Builders’ 2019 Survey indicated that over 30% of SME builders still report availability of finance as a significant constraint. On the back of confidence in stability of north east markets (and with markets in the south suffering), alongside low interest rates we are seeing successful private investment models and specialist funding starting to scale up to larger sites.

Our Northumberland estate agency team continues to fly, with sales prime locations selling very strongly and performance up a further 20% year on year. Quality property continues to be a strong draw for re-investment of north-east business wealth.

Technology is changing the way we interact with each other and our clients. However, all of the successful trends we are seeing in the region are as a result of human interaction and initiative.

As a business we continue to adapt and respond to opportunities, using technology to build on client relationships rather than replace them. Whilst we may be living in “the future”, most business is still done through face to face meetings and with a cup of coffee (even if we don’t yet have a robot to wash the cup). The same will apply in 2100.

2017: A Landmark Year for George F. White

2017 was a landmark year for George F. White. Richard Garland, Head of Tyne and Wear region for the Group, explains why this last year has been one of the best, and most progressive, years yet.

Richard Garland 2017

“When George White established the business nearly 40 years ago, the consultancy’s services were very much focused on the rural and agricultural sector. By 2017, the Group became a multi-disciplined and diverse consultancy that employs more than 120 people in eight locations from the Scottish Borders down to North Lincolnshire. Our focus is much more commercial these days, which is reflected in the rapid growth of our professional services in the last 12 months, especially in the North East.

Back in April 2017, we opened a Tyne and Wear base at Hoults Yard but just six months later we found ourselves closing that office, and moving to bigger premises, with a much more central presence, that is not only home to the professional services teams but also our letting arm, GFW Letting. We’ve done this to facilitate the growth of the lettings business in the last year, and to integrate the George F. White and GFW Letting brands more closely together. This provides opportunities for all sides of the business at the Newcastle office, by being able to offer a broad spectrum of services to our clients, within teams who can offer specialist advice.

2017… A Change of Focus

Due to the rapid growth of the Group across key service areas in the region, the office, which is based in Newcastle City Centre on Westgate Road, will be focused on our planning and development, commercial property and energy consultancy services. In particular, the office is a hub for the North East planning and development team, meaning it can draw on one of the largest specialist teams in the region and a new offering for development clients in the North East.

The planning and development team has experienced consistent growth in recent years, with 2017 being stronger than ever. While George F. White has grown, the rate of growth of the planning and development team has been even more striking and now constitutes 25% of the business’ turnover.

Because of a growing reputation, the team are flat out on many projects of up to 250 houses and several larger sites of 1,400 to 6,000 houses as well as commercial projects. They act both on behalf of land and business owners as well as in partnership with some of the UK’s biggest house builders.

Team Expansion

Such strong growth has been powered by adding more specialists to the team, we appointed a new operations director, Sally Hart, and also a new regional operations manager for GFW Letting, Donna Cheney earlier in the year. When we first expanded into Newcastle, the company took five staff. Since the second move, the team’s workforce in the city has expanded to 11.

We’re continually growing and currently have several available vacancies in the North East. Indeed, we are looking to expand our team by over 10% in the next year. 2018 and beyond is shaping up to be a busy but exciting year as we look to really establish our presence in Tyne and Wear, like we have elsewhere across the North East region and nationally.

For more information about the Group’s professional services, please contact Richard Garland on richardgarland@georgefwhite.co.uk or 01665 511994.

Planning for a Pain in the ‘Ologies’

The lack of housing remains one of the things which seems to be a constant political football but one which there is cross-party acceptance that it is a chronic issue.

There are a number of problems contributing to the undersupply of houses, none of which are easy to fix. An easy win seems to be to blame the planners for slow delivery of applications through the system. Previous measures designed to speed up the decision making on major decisions have had some limited effect, with a reported 83% of major applications being decided in time versus 79% last year. Even ignoring manipulation of the process to make the figures look better, the increase is small and the speed of approval from County Hall is constantly touted as a major factor holding up delivery and a constant source of frustration.

As part of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill currently before Parliament, further proposals are being put forward to improve the process. These include partially doing away with pre-commencement conditions. These dreaded conditions require a developer to do something to the satisfaction of the Council before development can start. They usually relate to archaeology, ecology or some other type of ology. The problem with ologies is that they invariably cost a lot of money to sort out and landowners get saddled with some significant costs before they can start work, yet alone a delay.

The proposals before Parliament include a moratorium on Councils imposing pre-commencement conditions without the consent of an Applicant. This, on the face of it sounds like it would be a good idea. However, our thoughts are that it has the potential to exacerbate a worrying trend for more information to be requested before an application is decided.

It was previously common practice for detailed archaeology, ecology, contaminated land (couldn’t think of an ology for that one) and hydrology (drainage) etc to be secured by pre-commencement planning conditions after permission had been granted. There is a distinct benefit in this, in that the risk of planning permission not being granted had been taken away. It is now more common for this information to be required before an application is approved, or frequently before permission is applied for, even for outline applications. When the risk of planning officer’s opinions, unpredictable planning committee votes based on political agendas and a dizzying array of other factors which can get in the way of planning permission being granted is taken into account, it can be unpalatable to spend tens of thousands of pounds at risk. On large sites this can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds outlaid up front, but often it can be just as uncomfortable to spend tens of thousands to satisfy the Ologists on smaller scale development.

Experience tells us the best approach is to understand the site specific constraints very early in the process. Sometimes, by also doing some work early in the process there can be enough willing shown to avoid the large bills until later in the process by doing enough to satisfy the Ologists’ curiosity. Understanding the site and its context are vital to negotiation.

The measures in the current Bill around planning conditions need to be considered in context of other mounting costs for applicants. The George F. White Planning team are busy at a number of Local Plan Public Inquiries at the moment. Looming on the horizon after the Local Plans come on line is the Community Infrastructure Levy, another form of development tax on top of section 106 contributions in most instances. Starter Homes also appear to be now gaining momentum, which may be in addition to affordable housing. A strategy to deal with the Ologists may therefore be money well spent and vital to reducing the risk of money outlaid early in the planning process.

Richard Garland is a Partner and Head of Planning & Development at George F. White, to discuss any planning issues Richard can be contacted on 07738 196051 or email richardgarland@georgefwhite.co.uk

George F. White Expands Planning and Development Services Due To Client Demand

Land, property and business consultancy George F. White has expanded its planning and development services across Northumberland following an increase in client demand on the back of continued success.

Changes in the planning system opening up new opportunities for property owners have been one of the key drivers behind the team’s continued success and, as a result, the consultancy has seen a big rise in planning related work.

Richard Garland, Head of Planning and Development at George F. White, said: “The UK planning system has undergone huge changes during a big transitional period. From this, we have seen increases in different types of planning and development needs from clients across the UK, both new and existing.

The planning team was established in 2007 to offer specialist advice. Since then, it has grown rapidly, even throughout the recession. While the consultancy’s roots were in rural planning, and this still remains a core strength, it has evolved to provide specialist planning advice across a much larger range.

“Our team now offers a service more akin to some large scale urban consultancies, dealing with large scale applications and urban extension of 1400 units and upwards, continued Garland. “With development land getting more and more complex, joining up planning to an understanding of land deals and values is essential, particularly where equalisation and option agreements are involved. That is our unique selling point and we pride ourselves in being the source of highest quality advice for landowners with development needs.”

Working on a diverse range of applications from major residential, retail and agricultural applications through to lawful development certificates and prior notifications, the team have achieved great results with a 93% success rate for applications in the last 12 months.

In the last two years, the team has doubled in size to include a number of planning and development specialists such as surveyors and architects. Providing services from Scotland to Lincolnshire, the team’s contribution to the overall George F. White business is currently 18%, with an increase in annual turnover of 150% since last year.

Richard added: “Our key objective now is to grow the team further – we are currently recruiting for new members of the planning team right across the business – to continue to diversify services so that we can adapt to clients’ differing needs. For example, we have brought architects in-house as a response to client feedback that they would prefer our teams to manage their bespoke project from start to finish. We are always discussing potential new services that could be offered to clients to make the most out of their land or property assets, especially within what is an ever-changing landscape of planning policies and regulations. The overhaul of our planning and development team is evident in the finalist nomination we received at this year’s North East Business Awards. It’s an exciting time for the team following all the commitment they’ve shown in turning George F. White’s planning and development services into what it is today.”

For more information about the planning and development services George F. White offers or current vacancies, please contact Richard Garland on 01665 511994 or email richardgarland@georgefwhite.co.uk