All of the houses that will be built in the foreseeable future will be funded by the private sector. Furthermore, the contributions from this will pay for our schools, health centres and development in towns. Given the reality that nearly all change is privately funded, it is clear the public sector needs to talk seriously about how it does business with developers.
Local authorities (LA) feel they have had limited influence over what is proposed in their towns and bemoan the fact that the NPPF has them in a bind. As it stands, their development control departments apply sanctions that are reactive in nature and only serve to mitigate or block development. To provide some protection from development, many local plans have been rushed through, but they often lack any real vision.
LAs need to start recognising the reality that the private sector is here to stay. It must begin finding ways of drawing out the benefits that this could bring. We cannot expect developers to be thinking of the long-term sustainability of a place – their primary driver is to make a profit.
It is the LAs that need planning strategies that set the standards of quality that their towns deserve. If this were done, it would incentivise the private sector, giving them a framework within which to work. Surely this is something we could all welcome; desirable places ensure the highest possible returns.
Following the recent election and with it a new government, our LAs need to recognise that the responsibility for delivering profitable places sits with them. With the right vision and support for developers, the public sector can drive the business of placemaking. If they do this, they will be ensuring that our towns and neighbourhoods are protected for generations to come.
Noel Farrer is a founding partner of Farrer huxley associates