As a newbie to the planning and development industry and a long-term village resident, I found that when asked what my job involves I get one general response: “why would you want to build even more houses?” This is an attitude heavily present in the rural, village areas I grew up in and now reside in, each village with its own culture and understandable love of the surrounding countryside.
Admittedly, as with any industry, development can have its down sides. However, the overwhelming reaction to the word “development” seems to be one of fear and anger. It is common to hear how villagers unite to remove scheming development plans, or fears of a sudden influx of outsiders to the village, or even sympathy towards the farmers (who themselves chose to sell the land) being the victims of greedy developers.
Yet, in my local context, I see relatively little of the benefits of development appearing outside of the planning world and the parish council. In fact, one of the first things I mentioned to friends concerned at the idea of local development, was what might be gained from Section 106 (soon to be CIL) obligations. This prompted a room full of blank expressions, followed by a quick follow up search of the local council website.
Clearly, the information is out there, but I feel that (as seems to be the case in planning) you can only find information once you know about the subject you’re searching for. In relation to Section 106, if most people not actively supporting or opposing development are unaware of such arrangements, they are unlikely to find out about them.
If this is the case, as we search to motivate supporters of development, we ought to use the opportunity to tell people of the benefits of development, of the opportunities for their local area and how to find out more. While we do our bit by meeting and engaging with residents near development schemes, it seems that the planning industry more widely ought to do more to engage with the everyday people they want to build for.
This article was written by Phoebe Gray, Account Executive at MPC.