Housing crisis 'will get worse' if housebuilders and councils fail to collaborate

It is imperative that developers and housebuilders form close working relationships with councils, according to one development finance broker.

Many property professionals have bemoaned the planning system, claiming it is slowing down the output of new homes. 

However, some developers and housebuilders have begun to form closer relationships with councils and one recently appointed a former regeneration director as a strategic consultant.

“It will be important for the local authority, capital partner and construction team to agree a streamlined and affordable delivery structure that meets the requirements of all stakeholders,” said James Aumonier, executive director at Long Harbour.

“Key risk factors should be identified early, including legal, technical, organisational, environmental and financials and mitigations plans put into place to handle them.”

Jordan McBriar, director at Adapt Finance, felt it was imperative that developers and housebuilders had a close working relationship with councils.

“The reason for the need is that the council, rightly or wrongly, can make or break a scheme and if they are involved through the process, from inception to construction, then this will hopefully alleviate any potential problems any scheme may incur.”

Anthony Rushworth, founder of housebuilding investment platform Homegrown, added: “Focusing on one or two locations is a great strategy for developers because the knowledge you gain about a particular council’s preferences and concerns can be invaluable.

“This all pays off for everyone in the end because ultimately this is about speed. 

“Faster planning decisions mean a shorter development cycle, a more predictable financial position for developers and more reliable returns for investors.”

Are there examples of close working relationships? 

council planning
Some councils have been working with development partners

Clive Wilding, director of Artisan, the development arm of North Street Ltd, said it was working with a local authority to develop a £180m mixed-use scheme in Lewes. 

“Partnerships between local authorities and councils are the only way to supply enough houses to satisfy the government’s housing policy. 

“Our joint development will deliver 416 new homes out of a total 875 that the council needs to deliver in the town between 2015 and 2030, which is almost half their quota. 

“In addition, 40% of the stock will be affordable housing, which is a first for the area.”

Interior designer Alexander James London (AJL) has also been working closely with local authorities, especially in London. 

“By forming strong relationships with developers and housebuilders, it should release large land parcels for development quicker and, ultimately, leading to faster delivery of much-needed housing,” said Richard Angel, managing director of AJL. 

“These partnerships can only be created if the OJEU [Official Journal of the European Union] process becomes more fluid, which will be interesting to see how this is addressed after Brexit."


frustrated developer
Many property professionals are frustrated by the planning system 

“The erosion of these once-strong relationships has devastated housing supply for the last 30 years,” explained Rico Wojtulewicz, policy adviser for the National Federation of Builders. 

“The housing crisis will get worse unless housebuilders and councils collaborate more deeply.”

Ashley Ilsen, head of lending at Regentsmead, said he had maintained for quite a few years that the current planning system needed a substantial overhaul.

“We often hear about the frustrations our developers go through when trying to liaise with the council. 

“Even during the post-approval stage involving simple tasks such as making sure pre-commencement conditions are signed off, a lack of information between developers and councils causes further delays to the development process. 

“Council planning departments are invariably rife with inefficiency, which is why I would argue for a full-scale overhaul lead by the relevant government departments.”

Room for improvement

council partner
Councils can work closer with property professionals 

“More open lines of communication would be a great first step in re-establishing collaboration opportunities,” added Rico. 

“This would help developers deliver the right homes in the right places, as well as improving the knowledge that councils have about the actual development process. 

“Without understanding each other’s pressures and barriers, councils will never build enough of the right homes and developers, particularly SMEs, will struggle to deliver the supply of homes our communities desperately need.”

Jordan also felt that communication was key. 

“We have seen far too many times – but thankfully not from a scheme we have partnered – that a developer has tried to ‘pull the wool over the eyes’ of the council and they never, ever succeed.  

“So, instead, embrace the local authority, keep them informed of changes you intend to make – well before you have even thought about implementing them – and the schemes will run very smoothly. From that point of view anyway.”

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