L&Q Group Chief Executive, Fiona Fletcher-Smith

Blog: Planning reform should favour housebuilding and real long-term value for residents

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Group Chief Executive
Published on 17/05/2023

Affordable housing, or the lack thereof has been consistently high on everyone’s agenda, whether you own your own home, you rent, you are in temporary accommodation or on the housing waiting list for years on end.

Housebuilding and the delivery of genuinely affordable homes is the only way to tackle the housing crisis. However, at present, development of these much needed homes is hindered by a planning system which is unambitious and under-resourced.

We support Labour’s commitment to take on planning reform, by bringing back local housing targets and investing in infrastructure, which often acts as a catalyst for good development.

When done right, in a planning environment that encourages good growth, placemaking and real change that works for everyone, housebuilding and regeneration can deliver value beyond numbers. Something that cannot necessarily be counted or defined, but allows residents to take pride in their homes and their community.

Housebuilders, and especially affordable housing providers like L&Q, need the reassurance of working with well-resourced local planning authorities, with a view for long-term ambitious plans and solutions.

We found this at Barking Riverside, in the long-term partnership with both the local authority, Barking & Dagenham, but most importantly with the Mayor of London, who joined forces with us in a partnership of equals, led by social purpose, commercial drive and patient capital.

This has allowed us to deliver a series of ‘game changers’ together. As the capital’s only ‘Healthy New Town’, Barking Riverside is being built around integrated health and wellbeing principles, with services set to include a GP surgery, sports facilities, open spaces and parkland. Included in the overall masterplan is also provision for seven schools, with five already open. There are also two private nurseries and a preschool on site.

A groundbreaking development delivering a wide breadth of affordable homes to the borough of Barking & Dagenham, Barking Riverside is a place like no other – with more than 90% of L&Q homes sold to first time buyers, allowing hundreds of people to place their first foot on the property ladder.

A good planning system and support from public sector partners has also allowed us to deliver hundreds of millions of investment in local infrastructure and connectivity, including delivering a new overground station, an Uber Boat by Thames Clippers Pier, as well as a network of cycle paths, a new cycle store and new bus routes. Residents and visitors using the new interchange now benefit from significantly quicker, greener and easier journeys.

This is the real value of a good planning system, which favours both housebuilding and the delivery of genuinely affordable housing, but also long-term real value for communities and residents. Planning reform is a good first step in that direction and we encourage both political parties to be ambitious in their approach.