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Public Faith In Development Is In The Gutter. The Rebuild Starts Here

Grosvenor's build-to-rent scheme in Bermondsey

Public trust in the development process is at rock bottom, with local communities feeling both developers and local politicians aren't looking out for their interests, according to the findings of a new survey.

Property company Grosvenor Britain & Ireland undertook what it says is the largest-ever survey into public attitudes toward development in the UK, canvassing a representative sample of more than 2,000 people across the country.

The survey found that only 2% trust developers — just 44 respondents out of 2,183. When asked why, 75% of those surveyed said developers only care about making or saving money. Just over half said developers don’t care about the needs of the local community.

The local authorities who oversee the development process also were criticised. Just 7% of those surveyed said they trust their local council to make decisions on large-scale development that are in the best interests of their local area.

About half of participants (49%) cited councils only caring about making or saving money, while 43% believed councils are not held to account on their promises.

Grosvenor said the distrust in the development process means the homes and commercial spaces the UK needs to house a growing population and boost economic growth are not being built.

“With opposition to development and regeneration increasing, the number of new homes being built in the UK continues to fall behind need,” Grosvenor Britain & Ireland Chief Executive Craig McWilliam said.

“These findings are a significant wake-up call to all involved in large-scale development — the public doesn’t trust developers or local authorities to act in their best interests. Together with others we must accept our responsibility, act to rebuild trust and back local government leaders shaping developments for the communities they serve.”

Grosvenor has itself been on the receiving end of public backlash against a large-scale development, with its £500M build-to-rent scheme in Bermondsey having been denied planning permission earlier this year.

The company has been doing some soul-searching, and is undertaking several measures to address these issues.

The business is looking to convene a working group of representatives from the development industry, public sector and civic society to develop a “manifesto” of joint pledges against which they can be judged.

It has also made three pledges about how it will undertake development in future.

It said it will make it easier for the public to weigh the value and costs created by a development. As an experiment this year, it will detail the anticipated social and environmental benefit created for a community locally and more widely, alongside the expected financial risks and returns to the company of an upcoming development.
It wants to increase transparency in the consultation, decision-making and design process for development by enabling scrutiny from an independent and objective commentator as a large-scale development is designed and delivered.
And it wants to help communities better understand how to get involved and influence developments, by developing a gold standard for consultation against which the business can be held accountable by councils and local communities.

The pledges echo some of those made by developer U+I earlier this year. 

“We are committed to meeting the call for greater transparency and openness from developers,” McWilliam said. “The system will work better for us all when more people are engaged in, and understand, the process and factors involved in the planning process. This will encourage greater participation and deeper, more informed debate about the future of our towns and cities.”

Related Topics: Grosvenor Group, Public trust