It is no secret that Britain is in the midst of a housing crisis. While housing issues have always been high on the agenda, they have come to the fore following the 2017 election and ahead of the upcoming council elections in London.
One of the major factors stifling development is the outdated planning system. The complexities of the system mean that land is assembled for development in a way that benefits landlords and developer obligations are over-complex, often leaving developers wondering where the money is being spent.
Public authorities can force the purchase of private land but must pay the landowner the post-development value of the land, rather than its current value. This means that it is landowners who capture a large portion of this uplift in value, rather than the community.
In a handful of European systems, most notably Germany, this spending is done another way. Public authorities purchase land, and use the uplift in value that accompanies the award of planning permission to fund the necessary local infrastructure improvements.
At the moment, we rely on a mish-mash of section 106 agreements and community infrastructure levies (CIL, MCIL1 and MCIL2 come 2019) to fund infrastructure and affordable housing. This is often a tortuous and expensive process, taking both time and money.
It is also an opaque process. Section 106 and CIL monies are often paid out by developers without any visible output for the communities they are supposed to be helping. Often, we just don’t know where the money is being spent.
One solution to these issues is to create a centralised commission along the lines of the system used in Germany to coordinate large-scale land assembly. This would allow the public sector to take responsibility for providing basic infrastructure, including roads, utilities and schools, before selling packages of land to private developers, which can start building houses. This allows more housebuilders into the system, increasing competition and quality.
Instead of limiting development to the biggest housebuilders with the largest group of lawyers, land could be matched to the developer best suited to providing the highest quality homes.
At Great Marlborough Estates, we would welcome the opportunity to develop serviced plots. We have a wealth of experience developing in London and are confident in our ability to bring our record of quality to more and more sites.
Cooperation with the local council and community ensures that homes are made with their future occupants in mind. This means higher-quality homes, built with tailored architecture that pays attention to detail — a true recipe for creating future heritage.
We were born to collaborate with other fresh and innovative firms, demonstrated by our joint venture with Frogmore. We created a courtyard development of nine three- and four-storey town houses in the heart of Notting Hill. A wider market, opened up more fairly, would offer more opportunities to work with others to shape the built environment.
Competition should be encouraged and housebuilders should be empowered to prove why they are right for any given development. Collaboration can take control of the housing sector away from a small cabal of housebuilders and put it in the hands of locally-engaged companies that will provide the best-quality homes for the greatest number of people.