Adam O’Brien, MD of Metis Homes, gives The Hampshire Chronicle a personal view on the ‘Flaws in planning’

Adam O’Brien, MD of Metis Homes, gives a personal view on the failings of the ‘hamstrung’ planning system which is seeing too few homes being built and young people struggling to get on the property ladder.

PROPER consultation and collaboration between developers and local authorities is important, but ultimately a culture change at local authorities is needed to streamline the planning system.

2018 was a year in housebuilding where Brexit uncertainty gradually became the norm, which meant that the home-buying public naturally became more circumspect, with the basic lack of clarity around the economy and thus how stable such a significant investment as a house purchase may be, making many decide to ‘wait and see’.

So, the cake of buyers that Metis and our fellow homebuilders like to tuck into became smaller as a result, particularly at the higher range of property value outside of the vital Help-to-Buy regime (i.e. over £600,000). That said, the need for new homes in Hampshire is inescapable, and Metis delivered very successfully, in its 11th year of trading, another wide variety of highly specified homes across Hampshire.

I approach 2019 cautiously but not without optimism. To address Brexit obviously I am cautious because the ongoing pantomime makes it impossible to predict quite what will happen to our markets, but equally, something will be happening soon one way or another. This modicum of clarity, whatever that may be, could well be better for us in the business world than the last two and half years of growing speculation that has done nothing to clarify anything.

This lifting of the fog, coupled with the massive need for housing and the fact that bank funding both for development finance and mortgages is stable for the time being, gives me enough comfort to press on positively and continue to deliver our small element of the new homes our country needs. What I would say, and what I firmly believe is that the fundamental flaws in the planning system have got to be addressed to help us deliver what the country needs. Brexit may take the spotlight away, but the issue does not disappear. Somehow, all of the bold statements and promises about streamlining the system have got to become tangible.

For me, the theory is simple - we have to work together to apply more funding and resources to allow our local authorities’ officers and professionals the ability to cope properly with the demands of our planning applications. The solution to this is complex, but it may be that a cultural change is required, to incentivise young professionals to want to work in local authorities.

Until this issue is dealt with, the planning system will continue to be hamstrung. All of that said, proper consultation and collaboration by developers throughout the planning process will ultimately, deliver the high quality schemes we need and at Metis we will not deviate from this professional and collaborative approach; values that have driven our business for the last decade.

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