The prime minister today told us that she’s all for cities, for high density and for high quality place-
making in our great urban centres. Good news, indeed.
Of course, not everything she mentioned in her sweeping review of the nation’s planning needs and
priorities will meet with everyone’s approval, but the broad presumption in favour of density and
quality has to be welcomed.
The recognition of the value of good quality build-to- rent projects was noteworthy. Our
population’s needs and wants are changing, with many happy to be asset-light and keen to enjoy the
flexibility that comes from high quality rental options. It’s good for our economy, too, to have a
mobile and skilled workforce able to find quality housing solutions wherever it wishes to move.
The density issue plays well with the BTR market place and we’ve designed numerous tall buildings
in Manchester, Liverpool and London that will contribute to this agenda. What’s interesting is the
broad demographic that wishes to live in them – a thumbs-up from the market for scale, quality and
And, of course, such developments tend to be game-changers in their setting – both demanding high
quality landscaping and design and encouraging others to respond to the challenge as much as the
opportunity. True regeneration, therefore. Better still, the huge boost to local populations that they
provide transforms neighbourhood service provision as entrepreneurs step in to provide the shops
and services local people need. Once empty streets become animated and busy with people
spending, bringing further jobs in their wake.
A while ago the minister with responsibility for housing, Savid Javid, talked about the value to our
great cities of copying what the Victorians and Edwardians pioneered: the mansion block, a multi-
tenanted, high quality and relatively dense form of urban development that went on to define some
of the country’s finest neighbourhoods. Let’s see more of them, I say.
The prime minister wasn’t afraid to take on the housing sector and you’ll find some forthright
observations from industry leaders on the Property Week web site. Her sub-text was clear: build it or
lose it. Councils will be allowed to take developers’ previous build-out rates in to account when
granting planning permission: “I want to see planning permissions going to people who are actually
going to build houses, not just sit on land and watch its value rise,” the PM has said.
Her announcement is expected to firm up as many as 80 initiatives consulted on in the current
Housing White Paper so the industry has had some time to line up its arguments and ready itself for
change. And there’ll still be a further 8 weeks for the industry to consult and lobby to secure the
best possible outcome.
The new rules are expected to cover issues such as the efficient use of land, speeding up
the period between planning being granted and shovels hitting the ground, and using the
local plan process as a means of ‘giving communities more control.’
And, of course, there’s the stand-fast that the Green Belt will be sacrosanct, with existing
protections being maintained, “so that authorities can only amend Green Belt boundaries if
they can prove they have fully explored every other reasonable option for building the
homes their community needs.” The presumption in favour of brownfield land and denser
use of scarce resource has to be good for cities and the continued resurgence of our large
urban centres looks set fair for the foreseeable.