IHBC highlights ‘un-actioned’ permissions, skills depletion and public interest as social enterprise primes London’s LA planning capacity for new housing

Public Practice websiteAs a collective of built environment interests has launched a social enterprise that aims to get early career planners (and architects) within local government to help deliver more housing, the IHBC highlights the presence of ‘over half a million un-actioned planning permissions’; the lack of skills and capacity across local authorities (LAs), and the need to ensure balanced outcomes across the wider planning services.

IHBC Vice President and past Chair Mike Brown said: ‘While this input of design skills is very welcome, it must be worth noting that with over half a million un-actioned planning permissions for new houses extant, perhaps the issue is less any perceived bottle-necks in Planning Departments, but increasingly the inability or, for supply-control and house price reasons, the unwillingness of the house-building sector to roll up its sleeves and get building!’

IHBC Communications Secretary and past Chair Dave Chetwyn said: ‘The key message coming across is that the lack of skills and capacity in local government is now a barrier to growth.  I think too that the Government now accepts that housing supply is going to need more direct intervention, though this is slow to translate into action!’

IHBC Director Sean O’Reilly said: ‘We can only welcome the idea that the business model of this new initiative seems to be framed around simply under-cutting recruitment agency charges linked to the ‘gig-economy’ employment style currently adopted in some local authority services, while also offering experience for early career practitioners.’

‘Equally, there must be absolute clarity that the full spectrum of public interest is being served in these changed systems.  Local needs and holistic planning considerations – including for communities and the environment – cannot be overlooked, especially when pump-priming a single thread in what England’s national planning policy recognises must be a wider, balanced and inclusive publicly-focussed service.’

Planning Portal writes:

Built environment organisations have launched a social enterprise that aims to place a new generation of planners within local government to help deliver more housing and address the housing crisis.

Public Practice has been developed through the Mayor of London’s Good Growth by Design programme, with local authorities and stakeholders inside and outside London.

The programme will operate across London and the South East initially, but it is hoped that it will be take up nationally. In the long-term the initiative aims to transform perceptions of public planning and build the public sector’s capacity to deliver more homes.

Public Practice is recruiting its first 16 planners, architects and urbanists for year-long placements in strategic roles within local authorities.

The recruits will receive training and mentoring, spending 10 per cent of their time taking part in collective research and development to be shared across the sector.

In doing this, the programme aims to bridge the on-going and widening skills gap between the public and private sectors, which has been noted as one of the main barriers to delivering the number of quality homes the country needs.

According to a statement from the Public Practice team, the proportion of architects practicing in the public sector has dropped from 49 per cent in 1967 to 0.7 per cent in 2016. Nearly half of local planning authorities do not have a dedicated in-house design capacity while 96 per cent of London boroughs have said they need more planning skills but 100 per cent have difficulty attracting suitably qualified or skilled workers.

Public Practice has been established as an independent social enterprise founded by six partners: the Mayor of London, the Local Government Association (LGA), Future Cities Catapult, British Land, Berkeley Group and Peabody.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: ‘I set up the Good Growth by Design programme as a step towards realising my vision of London as a city that enables people to reach their full potential, is inclusive and where growth brings benefits to each and every community. Moving away from high-price homes towards more genuinely affordable homes for all Londoners is vital to achieving this and I look forward to seeing the first of many cohorts of talented planners and architects working in local authorities to help make that happen.’

Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said planning capacity is a ‘critical’ issue across the country. ‘By supporting the creation of the Public Practice initiative we aim to provide a timely and practical way to help councils improve.’

Finn Williams has been appointed as the chief executive officer of Public Practice. He has worked for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Croydon Council and the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Public Practice’s initial board members are:

  • Jules Pipe, deputy mayor of London for planning, regeneration & skills (chair)
  • Danna Walker, founding director, Built by Us
  • Lucy Musgrave, founding director, Publica
  • Sarah Cary, head of sustainable places, British Land
  • Vincent Lacovara, placemaking team leader, Croydon Council

Applications for the first 16 placements and expressions of interest from local authorities are being invited.

See more on the Public Practice website and see Planning Portal

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