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Public lacks trust in developers

Words: Laura Edgar
Lack of trust / iStock-502448199

The public lacks trust in developers and the planning system, according to a survey published by property firm Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.

Conducted in March 2019, the YouGov survey comprised 15 closed questions, to which 2,183 members of the public responded.

It found that that just 2 per cent of the public trust developers and only 7 per cent have faith in local authorities when it comes to planning for large-scale development.

The public believes that developers only care about making or saving money – with 75 per cent of respondents citing this as a reason for their lack of trust. Of the respondents, 2 per cent say they trust developers to act honestly.

Councils are not held to account on their promises, say 43 per cent of respondents, while 9 per cent say councils don’t care what the local community needs, and another 38 per cent say they do not understand what that community needs.

When asked how to increase public trust in large-scale development, respondents said:

  • 74 per cent want developers to be held to account for what they promise.
  • 72 per cent want local authorities to be held to account for what is promised.
  • 71 per cent said they want opportunities for local people to have more influence on the outcome of development.
  • 69 per cent want more transparency from private developers through the planning process.

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland contends that more homes and new spaces can be successfully delivered if trust in planning, local authorities and developers is rebuilt. To achieve this, a change in behaviour is required.

Craig McWilliam, CEO of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said: “These findings are a significant wake-up call to all involved in large-scale development – the public doesn’t trust developers or local authorities to act in their best interests. Together with others we must accept our responsibility, act to rebuild trust and back local government leaders shaping developments for the communities they serve.”

In response, the firm says it has made a series of commitments that it aims to implement across its business, including making it easier for the public to weigh the value and costs created by a development. In an experiment to be carried out this year, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland will detail “in plain English” the anticipated social and environmental benefit created for a community locally and more widely, alongside the expected financial risks and returns to the company of a forthcoming development.

It will also increase transparency in the consultation, decision-making and design process for development and delivery and it will help communities to better understand how to get involved and influence developments.

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills expressed disappointment that the research appears to show that public trust in planning is low.

"Thankfully this is not the experience of our professional members. For the planning system to work effectively, it is essential that planning departments are well-resourced to support proactive community involvement in planning consultation, decision-making and design. This works two ways; developers need to up their game on early engagement with communities and local authorities," she explained.

“However, we should be wary of placing additional burdens on local authorities who, as a result of austerity, have reduced their net expenditure on planning by 42 per cent since 2009/10. Recent research conducted by the RTPI found that these swingeing cuts have eroded planning’s ability to serve the public interest – to do their work effectively, planners must be adequately resourced and supported.”

Sarah James, membership development officer at Civic Voice, told The Planner: “Too often people feel like victims of the planning system; that planning is something done to them and decided elsewhere. The research by Grosvenor confirms what Civic Voice has been saying for years. Lack of trust and confidence in planning is acting as the catalyst for the confrontation that is slowing down the system. If we can ensure communities are meaningfully engaged at an earlier stage, it will increase the community voice, create cost savings for the developer and lead to better development. We have said that the best developers will lead from the front in making this change happen and we are pleased that Grosvenor is doing this. The pressure is now on other developers to follow Grosvenor’s lead.”

Image credit | iStock