by GK Strategy 17th May, 2019
4 min read

Securing planning permission to build: how we support developers through the planning process

To meet existing and new demand for housing between 240,000 and 340,000 homes need to be built per year. While housing supply is a significant issue, so too is affordability, and the pressure this is creating in towns and cities up and down the country is intense. According to the ONS, housing affordability has worsened significantly in 69 local authorities in England and Wales over the last five years, with over three-quarters of these in London, the South East and the East.

As this environment evolves so to do the needs and expectations of people in communities. This places acute pressure on local government to oversee and create cohesive communities. Councillors, Cabinet Committee Members and Council Officials are faced with an impossible balancing act; protecting the needs of long-standing residents and new residents while attempting to attract new residents and businesses to the area.

The politics is heating up too. Polling suggests that people view housing as one of five key issues at the ballot box excluding Brexit. According to Ipsos Mori, in 2018 housing reached its highest level of importance to voters since 1974 in its Annual Issues Index.

At the forefront of meeting this housing need is developers, and it is vital they carefully navigate their way through local authorities, communities and wider stakeholders before breaking ground. Part of this process will need to involve a more open minded and creative approach to place-making. An example of this is the Greater London Assembly’s London Plan, which have advocated for the increased use of mixed use developments to maximise house building while also delivering essential services for Londoners – something GK played a central role in calling for.

To support developers and businesses hoping to develop on land, GK guide clients through a tried and tested five step process, including:

  1. Carrying out political feasibility studies

Ideally, this process takes place before a site is acquired so that a genuine assessment can be made as to whether a potential development is viable or not from a political perspective.  If this is not possible it is essential to research and understand the political and community dynamics before pre-application engagement begins. We consider which party is in control of the council, who the leader is, which figures fill key Cabinet posts, who the ward councillors are and who sits on the planning committee. Alongside this we consider any trends in how a council’s planning committee votes and whether this aligns with the council’s official recommendation.

We also look at prior applications to understand the challenges they faced and the community’s reaction to them. When we assess a community’s reaction to development, we also try to develop an understanding of what local people think about other key issues such as schools, traffic, community space and services. All of these aspects will contribute to them being supportive of new developments. This knowledge also helps us identify if there are any community benefits that developers could propose as part of their plans for development.

  1. Agreeing the strategic approach to development

With a clear picture of the local political dynamics and other contributing factors, we then develop a strategy to engage with key influencers and decision makers in relation to the development. The research undertaken in phase one is vital towards getting the message and sequencing of communications right.

  1. Pre-application engagement

With a clear strategy in place, we guide clients through a comprehensive pre-application engagement process. Typically, this involves three key parts: a one to one meeting programme with key officials, politicians and community influencers, a public consultation to gather feedback from local residents and a statement of community involvement. To ensure there is a good turnout at the public consultation, it is important to notify the media with all key information. All elements are crucial to refining the eventual plans that are then submitted to the council.

  1. Post-application engagement

With the planning application submitted, we guide clients to deliver a coordinated campaign leading up to the committee session. 4-6 weeks before the committee session takes place, we lead a targeted media campaign to demonstrate the benefits of a development, coordinate third party groups to voice their support and undertake political engagement as appropriate. An important part of this is monitoring and handling any threats to the application’s progression.

  1. Secure planning permission

With all the hard work complete, we hope to put our clients in the best possible position to secure planning permission at the committee session. Ultimately, not only does this process help secure planning permission, it creates community good will in the future.

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