Late last year we were pleased to have promoted four members of staff including Dan Rogers from our Exeter office. Here, we get to know a bit more about the current development in the South West and Dan’s predictions for the future of the area.
Congratulations on your recent promotion to Senior Principal Planner. You have been with the company for just over three years now; have you noticed any changes in the planning sector since you started?
Planning is becoming increasingly challenging and bureaucratic. This means it is essential we give clear advice to clients from the outset.
On one hand, planning generates a huge amount of public interest. We’re in a period where public participation is at a high (either through NIMBYism or more constructively through Neighbourhood Plans and ‘localism’) and this has huge implications for the planning system. The public are able to engage and influence planning decisions more than ever before (which is a good thing but can add a layer of complexity to the planning system), and, on the flipside, the Local Planning Authorities do not have the manpower to respond to these demands.
Local Planning Authorities are increasingly under resourced meaning that, even with the best will in the world, they are generally underperforming and not delivering the development that is required locally. This is not the fault of the Local Planning Authorities as cuts have been imposed upon them, and this resourcing issue is also reflected through the length of time it is taking the Planning Inspectorate to issue their decisions. All of the above adds to delays in delivering development and these issues are being felt all across all levels of decision making in the planning process.
These increased pressures (along with ever changing policies and continued government tinkering), mean that, in order to get a timely planning decision, getting and giving the right strategy and planning advice is more important now than ever.
What is the planning market like in the West Country at the moment?
Around the main centres, such as Exeter, it is particularly buoyant. Despite the uncertainties that exist on wider political issues such as Brexit, developers/land owners/businesses are still progressing schemes and development proposals. Development is occurring in both urban and rural environments across the region and not just in the larger towns and cities.
Whilst housing and commercial schemes are often the projects that get the most press, the West Country has a very diverse planning market which also affects other important sectors such as tourism and agriculture.
My work has taken me from projects on the southern tip of Cornwall to the City of Bristol – so there is a lot going on all across the region. As with most parts of the country, there is a massive growth agenda that needs to be met and planning will obviously play a huge part in delivering this.
Devon and the surrounding areas can be sensitive regarding development and planning, this must make your job more challenging?
It is challenging, but every day is varied which keeps the job interesting. Devon and Cornwall obviously contain some of the most beautiful parts of the country in which to live and work, and protecting that special character along with delivering growth and much needed housing/jobs will always be a challenge and presents conflict that needs to be balanced out. It means that to achieve and deliver development you must think creatively and be proactive which is a challenge I enjoy.
There seems to be a lot going on in the Exeter area at the moment, what are your predictions for development in the area over the next few years?
Irrespective of the national picture there will continue to be huge growth agenda around Exeter and the wider area. Exeter has a very positive outlook toward development, but there is a limited availability of land within which the city can grow. This has implications for all of the neighbouring authorities who will also need to get on board with this growth agenda. There is also clearly a large imbalance between the amount of housing allocated in the area and the level of employment land currently available.
These are all issues that will need to be addressed in forthcoming Local Plans and the issues at stake present significant opportunities for our clients as there is huge pressure for future development. Whilst this will obviously need to be balanced with the impacts and constraints presented by the surrounding landscape and seascape, it will be very interesting to see how this future growth is accommodated. Our clients have a big opportunity to help influence how this growth will be achieved.