As the property industry starts to grapple with the enormity of the proposed changes to the planning system put forward for consultation, it’s worth considering whether speeding up the planning system will have the desired impact of speeding up the delivery of development.

Planning for the Future may be focussed on housing but commercial developers, too, have frustrations with the lengthy timescales for delivering front end certainty of development projects and still face significant hurdles and cost.

In the era of fast-changing consumer and business demands, driven by technology changes and accelerated by the pandemic, it is vital that our towns and cities can compete with the comfort of the home as an attractive place to work and socialise. For this to work the development industry must be able to get its revitalised product to market much quicker. This means making the pre-development phase (which isn’t just planning) more straight forward and hence quicker.

Pressure needs to be taken away from the public sector in underwriting town centre regeneration and confidence needs to be given to alternative sources of development funding from the private sector. This relies on risk and programme mitigation, which is made more difficult by the cost and uncertainties of the pre-development process. Developers have their work cut out attracting occupiers so mitigation of development risk, cost and close collaboration with the public sector and key stakeholders, is crucial to attract quality Developers and buildings.

My colleague, Craig Blatchford has already queried the role of statutory consultees in this new planning framework and I would go further.

The current pre-development process currently takes too long but extending and adapting the Planning Performance Agreement System for all statutory consultees and services would bring benefits all round.

For a developer who also must understand how they are going to access and service their site, and understand the cost and practicalities, a quick turn round is vital. They would generally be prepared to fund these types of Performance Agreements provided a fast and meaningful response which allows them to accurately assess viability and programme. This in turn could allow resource shortages to be addressed by the additional funding stream.

Enabling the development process, not just planning, to be accelerated by closer collaboration at the front end of projects would be a big step forward in allowing real estate to compete more effectively in a fast-changing world, enabling our towns to be re-imagined more quickly.  Then we can really get building!