Fortune Favours the Smart

    Julian Clarke, Director National Recoveries, explains why expert advice is key to planning success.

    London has one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex planning systems. While this protects investment values by moderating the pace of change, it can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

    This is especially true of large, complex schemes. Major developments Savills has been closely involved with, such as the Westfield shopping centre and Wembley, have required large professional teams, long time frames and considerable patience on the part of the promoters.

    So what can be done to reduce the cost and improve the chance of success?

    Firstly, it’s important to select a site where there is a reasonable prospect of matching government and public opinion. While some of London’s greatest successes have been iconoclastic – such as Canary Wharf and Wembley – in the current climate it pays to research locations that fit the expectations of key decision-makers.

    Also accept that cutting corners rarely brings success. The schemes that stand the best chance of success involve the best designers, experts and high-quality project management. Any weaknesses are likely to be exposed by the planning system.

    Next, it’s vital to get people on board. That means engaging with the local community. Many schemes have been defeated or delayed because of the actions of local people and groups. This is likely to intensify in the future as government planning policy is to
    support localism, which will inevitably strengthen the hand of communities.

    Also, don’t underestimate the importance of politics. Although a technically excellent submission is essential, the more significant decisions are taken by politicians and are strongly influenced by the groups that politicians listen to. It is necessary to understand who the “movers and shakers” are and work hard and intelligently to persuade them of the merits of the scheme.

    Finally, look ahead. Planning never stands still and prospective changes can make a big difference to the viability of development schemes. Live issues include Community Infrastructure Levy, Tax Increment Funding, a presumption in favour of sustainable development and Mayoral Development Corporations (to name but a few). All will change the ground rules of planning and development – sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

    But out of change, new opportunities arise and the more prescient promoters will be the ones who benefit the most.


    Key contacts

    Julian Clarke FRICS, FNARA

    Julian Clarke FRICS, FNARA

    Development & Regeneration Recoveries and Receivership

    Savills Margaret Street

    +44 (0) 20 7409 8743

    +44 (0) 20 7409 8743