Has devolution proved to be the driving force behind delivery we all hoped it would be?

25 Sep 19 | Ian Anderson

…this does not mean that the project is ultimately flawed, we just need to develop greater clarity on process and work on developing effective partnerships

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With conference season in full swing, I am sure I am not alone when I say I am not hopeful that the planning and development world will feature highly in the political rhetoric – it is not exactly the non-controversial vote grabbing topic that politicians are after. But of course it should be.

So yet again it is over to us as a sector to debate the key issues surrounding delivery and how we can help the Government – whoever that may be – to have a chance of meeting their targets. So while politicians go into full campaign mode, seeking the vote winning headline, tomorrow myself and many colleagues across the sector will be putting our thinking caps on at the LD Events, Viability and Planning Conference.

Not one to shy away from a debate, I did not hesitate in accepting an invitation to give a talk on Politics and Planning; more specifically, looking at whether devolution is indeed the answer to housing and infrastructure delivery that we were told it would be.

With eight joint local authority areas joining London in having a metro-mayor, we are all starting to reflect on what this actually means in reality. Of course it may still be too early to tell, the majority have only been in situ since 2017, with Jamie Driscoll in North Tyne barely moved in since he was first elected in May this year. But it is fair to say that most of the metro-mayors have started to put the wheels in motion when it comes to strategic planning.

This process has not been without its issues. Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West of England have all stumbled along the way. As they are all realising, it is not easy to develop a single strategic vision and plan across disparate local authorities with their own aspirations and political agendas, whilst also seeking to protect an innate political position. In my opinion, though this does not mean that the project is ultimately flawed, we do need to develop greater clarity on process, and further work is needed on developing effective partnerships.

At Iceni we have been considering our own approach to the delivery conundrum for over a year now. We need to explore a workable delivery model that supports strategic delivery in a way that forges partnerships and respects the disparate needs and aspirations of all partners. From landowner to the local authority, from promoter to the local community, delivery should be about the benefits of sustainable growth for the long term. Surely that (or maybe in political parlance a legacy) is what each metro mayor is ultimately seeking to secure?

I am looking forward to a solid debate tomorrow – we are only as good as our collective ideas after all. But one thing I hope we will all be able to agree on is that in order to deliver above and beyond what this country needs, strategic thinking is fundamental. Strategic plans are therefore an important tool; they have their flaws, but given time and open, honest debate, these can be ironed out.

Ian Anderson Chief Executive
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