L&Q Group Chief Executive, Fiona Fletcher-Smith

Blog: Planning for success

Fiona Fletcher Smith, Group Chief Executive and Chair of the G15 


Published on 13/02/2024

It is very encouraging to finally see planning and housebuilding so high up on the agenda of policy-makers in the run-up to the general election.

As the housing crisis and cost of living crisis both deepen at an alarming pace, we desperately need a strategic rethinking of the planning system, to provide a joined-up, long-term plan supporting housebuilding at scale and pace.

Whether we are creating a new neighbourhood on a large former industrial site, or looking at small infill sites, which create the fabric of our cities, brownfield development is hugely important.

We, therefore, welcome all proposed planning reforms aimed at speeding up housing delivery on brownfield land, while also reducing the delays, risks, costs and uncertainty usually associated with the planning system.

At L&Q, and together with our fellow G15 Members, we remain committed to playing our part in solving the housing crisis. Together, we are the largest provider of new affordable homes in London, so it is imperative that the efforts of developing housing associations should be supported, not hindered along the way.

Having said that, planning is a small part of why development at the scale needed is not happening at the moment and any policy proposals should be considered in the overall economic and social context, and as part of a much wider, long-term plan to fix the housing crisis.

Firstly, housebuilding on its own is not enough. We should also look at strategic planning, capacity-building, infrastructure development and regional cooperation, which are the catalysts for the new towns and communities that this country needs.

Secondly, any new planning reform should not overload local planning authorities or planning committees, but instead ensure sufficient resources, support and expertise. Local planning departments across the UK are hugely under-resourced, and that situation is very unlikely to change while local authorities have to do their best to juggle the many pressures and priorities with reduced budgets.

Policy-makers also need to be mindful and create a system that encourages the right kind of development, delivering homes of all sizes and all types of tenures, especially affordable and social housing.

Our sector has long argued that social housing boosts the economy, creates jobs and is vital to people’s quality of life, and this is all needed at present. Not to mention how crucial new social housing is to help alleviate the pressures of the temporary accommodation crisis for local authorities, and ensure desperate families, who are often living in hotel rooms and B&Bs for years, get access to a stable home.

At L&Q we believe passionately that people's health, security and happiness depend on where they live. And we hope that by supporting the right kind of development, delivered at pace and scale, a reformed planning system will help ensure that everyone has access to an affordable, safe and healthy home – the fundamental building block that underpins people’s ability to build a better quality of life.