Businesses have a role to play in planning system

Britian’s planning system is broken, but could greater collaboration be tween the private and public sector offer a practical solution to clear the backlog? There’s something of a paradox when it comes to the planning system; many areas across the UK are facing acute housing shortages, developers are ready and waiting to meet this demand and most local authorities have sites earmarked sites to meet demand.

Even in cases where there are acute housing shortages, a scheme has a committed developer, working on land approved for development by a local authority, there can be delays lasting months, if not years before the first brick is laid. It can be a time consuming and frustrating experience for all parties involved. Such delays don’t just impact on the property sector as a whole, but also creates the knock-on effect of stifling business productivity and regional economic growth.

After all, when a business chooses to relocate to the region, or recruit new members of staff, in many cases this means providing employees with a place they are proud to call home. This can be particularly challenging when residential demand continues to outpace supply.

In my role as president of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber. I regular hear about the frustrations many businesses can face when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff and the planning system has a role to play in un locking these productivity challenges. One of the measures we have introduced at Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber has been the creation of a new property forum. The idea behind the group is help businesses work more collaboratively with local planning teams, helping to over come common challenges, as well as giving local authorities a forum to highlight best practice.

With election fever gathering momentum and both major parties making pledges to reform the planning system, it appears that changes are coming to the planning system. But I suspect that whilst reforms may help to streamline planning regulations, it won’t address the real bottleneck in the planning system For that, perhaps even more radical solutions are likely to be required. In many cases, the problem facing local authorities isn’t the rules or regulations they are asked to interpret but the resources at their disposal. Experienced planners are in high demand, not just within the public sector, but in lucrative commercial roles.

Could one of the solutions to overcoming the backlog in the planning system be to outsource more areas to the private sector? Planning, by its very nature, is complex. Any proposed scheme rightly requires scrutiny, especially when decisions made by planning officers and elected members can have long-term consequences. It’s not uncommon for local authorities to work in partnership with private sec tor businesses when it comes to delivery of a wide range of services and although careful consideration would need to be given to the role businesses could play in planning matters, there is clearly an opportunity to reduce the administrative burden faced by local authorities by tapping into the wealth of knowledge and expertise held within businesses Matthew Stephens is President of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber.

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