Delivering Sustainable Economic Growth – the need for leadership

Keith Mitchell, Chairman of Peter Brett Associates, has been thinking seriously about how we can make progress on regeneration and growth. He has set out

 Here is the fifth of the series of articles.

So far we have considered the tensions between planning, localism, infrastructure delivery and sustainable economic growth. It is a complex landscape, and will become the new reality over the next few months. How do we find our way through it?

As with any system, policy and legislation is open to interpretation. It is often the decisions made within the any system that dictate how, in practice, it is going to work. How will the provisions in the Localism Act be interpreted? How will inspectors make judgements about primacy of development plans versus the presumption for sustainable development? Only time will tell.

We can probably say that the current indications are that precedent is reinforcing the importance of the plan led system, driven by local authorities on behalf of their communities. This is an important issue, and it will be incumbent on local authorities to reinforce the importance of a robust spatial plan that supports sustainable development goals. But there is still a great deal to learn about the priority to be given economic growth versus environmental or social goals, or between local opinion and development need.

Regeneration projects, by definition, are often complicated. Not only are they influenced by the emerging system, they are also burdened with costly infrastructure requirements. In this economic climate, it is not difficult to see why investors and developers are hesitant about getting involved in regeneration schemes. Whilst they might want to be seen to be contributing to enhancing social cohesion, the environment and economic well being, they are not willing to commit funds without clear viability criteria being met. With values falling, viability has been squeezed to the detriment of delivery. The pips have squeaked.

So – who will provide the leadership to balance the priorities for sustainable development, and how can we stimulate investment in the context of the emerging new planning and economic reality, whilst we also achieve environmental and social progress?

To understand this, we need to understand the inherent tensions in the system, and be prepared to provide leadership through the new reality we find ourselves in. I turn to this in the next and final article
Keith Mitchell

Chairman, Peter Brett Associates.