SME Residential Developers and Planning Risk

Yet another report that I’ve missed…In December 2016, the Local Government Information Unit and the Federation of Master Builders have published a joint report on the barriers faced by SMEs in the residential development sector and proposing some potential mitigating measures.

Whilst there’s been no shortage of reports based on inferential analysis but limited evidence, this one contains some empirical research – albeit qualitative.

This report looks at some of the barriers to enabling small scale development and how these might be overcome. It draws together evidence from surveys of local authorities and SME builders, roundtable discussions involving both parties, and a series of interviews with planning officers. Key areas identified for improvement are allocation and use of land, resourcing and capacity, the planning application process, and engagement between the industry and local authorities.    

There’s some interesting points in it about the specific issues facing small-scale developers.  Basically, the economies of scale issue can be pretty pervasive.  The amount of resource from the planners’ perspective is not much different for a 30 unit project compared to a 300 unit development.  It makes sense for the local authorities to allocate (widely agreed to be) scarce planning resources on larger rather than smaller sites.

There was a lot of emphasis on a more responsive, engaged and pro-active local authority role in supporting the development of small sites (albeit with scarce resources).    Implicit in a lot of the discussion is reducing planning risk for small developers.  The report also mentions a new (to me) concept developed by my former colleague Matthew Carmona at UCL called coordinating codes – see more here where he links it to the proposal for increased use of Permission-in-Principle.

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