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“Developers only care about profit,” survey finds

General - New Housing Development

The survey, claimed to be the largest of its kind ever carried out, found that only 2% of the public trust developers and 7% trust local authorities in this role.

Craig McWilliam, CEO of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said that the findings were a "wake up call". He commented: "With opposition to development and regeneration increasing, the number of new homes being built in the UK continues to fall behind need. The survey shows that the public doesn’t trust developers or local authorities to act in their best interests. We must act to rebuild trust and support local authorities in shaping developments for the communities they serve."

People who had interacted with the planning system were most likely to think that large-scale development had had a negative impact on their local area. Of respondents who had shared their views with the local council or attended a public consultation, more than 60% felt negatively about the impact of development on their local area.

The biggest driver of distrust in developers was the perception that they "only care about making or saving money", with 75% of respondents identifying it as a reason for their lack of trust. More than half of respondents felt that developers "do not care about the needs of the local community".

Councils fared a little better, with half of respondents citing them as only caring about making or saving money and 43% believing that they are not held to account on their promises. Almost 40% said councils don’t care what their local community needs and 38% that they don’t understand what that community needs.

Three-quarters of respondents felt that private developers and local authorities should be held to account more for what was promised. More opportunity for local people to influence the outcome of development was called for by 70%. A similar number called for more transparency from private developers in the planning process.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said that while the findings of the report were disappointing, "thankfully this is not the experience of our professional members".

She said: "For the planning system to work effectively, it is essential that planning departments are well-resourced to support proactive community involvement."

She also called for developers to "up their game" and work harder to engage with communities and local authorities at an early stage in the planning process.

Mr McWilliam pledged that Grosvenor Britain & Ireland would increase transparency in consultation, decision-making and design for large-scale developments, including scrutiny from independent commentators.

He said: "We are also 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 we can be judged."

The survey was based on social media analysis, interviews with councillors, developers and members of the public and business community and a focus group with community leaders. This was followed by an online YouGov survey involving more than 2,000 members of the public.

With assets of £5.3bn, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland is part of the privately-owned Grosvenor Group. Its development, management and investment portfolio includes properties in Mayfair, Belgravia Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 

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