I dropped into a consultation event for a planned development near my house recently. It wasn’t just that I was interested in finding out what’s going on in my local area; it’s always interesting to look at the approach that other people take to consulting communities on planning issues.
The consultation materials on display were well-designed, providing clear information written in non-technical, accessible language. There were plenty of consultants on-hand to talk through the materials, and there were refreshments available for attendees. All in all, a well-designed, competently run event. However, my eyes were drawn to one particular exhibition board entitled ‘benefits’. This set out all the various community contributions that you would expect to accompany major proposed new development. These, the board informed us, would “mitigate the impact of the new homes”.
I don’t believe that this kind of narrative is atypical in community planning consultations, but I do think it does our industry a disservice. Implicit within it is the idea that new development is a burden, but that developers can make various contributions to ease the pain for local people. While this may be the view taken by opponents to development, it is not truly reflective of reality.
Building new homes is good for society. The severity of Britain’s housing crisis has been documented extensively, and market pressures are particularly acute in the South East of England. Delivering sustainable new homes is not an imposition on communities: it is an urgent need that is imperative to ensuring our country’s economic health and improving intergenerational fairness.
We should take confidence from this, and shouldn’t be afraid to sell the benefits of new homes as a social good. To do otherwise is to accept the narrative of opponents to new housing. Furthermore, it follows from this that we should never imply that the infrastructure benefits of development are in any way separate from the delivery of new homes. Rather, we should take the time to explain that housing delivery is a mechanism through which infrastructure improvements can be secured. Not only is this a more positive explanation of growth than the ‘mitigation’ narrative propagated by opponents, it helps tie together the delivery of new homes and associated delivery of infrastructure as a single package of benefits.
We should be proud to work within the housing and planning industry. We help deliver badly needed new homes which ease genuine and acute social problems. As such, we should have the confidence to call new houses what they are: good for Britain.
This article was written by Richard Parry, Senior Account Manager at MPC.