The British public have lost faith in the planning system – so how can we rebuild trust?

New homes in Bristol. Image: Getty.

Developers are worried, a developer writes. 

The country needs to build more homes. This is a statement that most people agree with. But it has also never been harder to deliver the homes the public wants to see.  Too often there is a stand-off between communities, developers and councils that stalls development and the many wider benefits it can bring beyond new homes.

At the heart of this sits a huge trust deficit in the process of planning and regeneration in the UK. A lack of trust that holds us back from delivering the homes and critical infrastructure we need to support a growing population and economy.

At Grosvenor, we wanted to better understand this trust deficit, and commissioned the largest ever canvassing of public attitudes towards trust in the planning system and its key actors – the private and public sector.

The results are stark. Just 2 per cent of participants in our national survey said they trusted developers to act in an honest way in large-scale development.

The picture is little better for local authorities. Asked whether they trusted their local council to make decisions on large-scale developments in the best interests of their area, just 7 per cent of respondents agreed.

For developers, the key driver of public distrust is the perception that they only care about making a profit. For local authorities, the reasons are broader based, but what comes through is that the public does not really understand what their local council is doing and why this is in their best interests.

In short: developers only care about money, and communities don’t trust that their local authorities are holding us to account.   

So how to go about rebuilding trust in this vital area of public life?

We need to do more. More as a developer ourselves, and as a sector, to improve our behaviour and better explain what we are trying to achieve and how we are delivering on our promises.

More also needs to be done to support local councils in their efforts to shape their area and new developments for the communities they serve.

We don’t have all the answers. And we know that we can only rebuild trust if more of us accept that we need to change and act accordingly. But we stand ready to play our part.

Grosvenor is setting out our own commitments to drive more transparency, scrutiny and community involvement as we shape our schemes. And we are already putting these into practice.

We also want to work with our peers in real estate, the public sector and civic society to collectively rebuild trust in the planning system and development. There has been a strong response to the opportunity to join a working group we have established, and we hope that others will join us.

The prize – more homes, new jobs, better places – is worth fighting for.

Craig McWilliam is chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.


There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.

In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.