The economic climate in the UK has left many businesses shutting shop and looking at more buoyant economies to deliver greater profits and returns to their shareholders. The Coalition Government faced with mounting debt is attempting to transform the way businesses interact and communicate with the local communities and the public sector to try and reduce public sector spend. This is evident from the changes proposed in the 'Localism Bill' presently before the House of Lords. The name of the Bill perhaps does not forewarn the uninformed of its contents. One would be forgiven for thinking it simply contains David Cameron's ideas for "the Big Society".
In generic terms it does deal with those ideals but it contains much more concrete proposals which will fundamentally change the way in which land is developed in England which often determines where and how businesses can operate. Any significant landowner should take the trouble to find out the implications of the details of this legislation if they are to properly inform their real estate decisions over the course of the next 5 to 10 years. There is insufficient space here to deal with the voluminous changes proposed but I outline below some salient themes emerging from the changes proposed in the Bill and more generally elsewhere. The reforms propose far reaching implications for businesses with significant real estate investment.
Those who have been involved in any significant development schemes; especially where those proposals have been refused on the back of local community/resident pressure will be all too aware of the considerable costs incurred in securing planning permission. The first and foremost question when determining whether planning permission is granted for a particular scheme rests on whether planning policy supports the proposed use in the proposed location. The reforms will make significant changes to this position. The government's messages which underlie the reforms are that it will encourage and promote development and those prepared to support development schemes will benefit financially. These in the same breath as greater rights are proposed for communities to promote their own local planning policies (for controlling development proposals in their area). The tension between those wishing to preserve the status quo as versus those promoting development is set to face a new dawn.
The novel idea proposed by the government is to say that local businesses can lead and be part of such community planning. There is likely to be limited funding for community planning and as such businesses could take the lead by contributing their know-how and expertise to promote and influence such plans. Inevitably some community consensus will have to be achieved to promote such plans, but if businesses are to be avoid being held to ransom in affluent areas to the anti-development "NIMBY" brigades (who are likely to have the resources to promote community plans) this is an opportunity they can ill afford to ignore.
Potential government funding
To promote the success of the Bill the government is encouraging application for government funding for business led community plans. An undisclosed pot of money is available for the taking. Additional central government funding has been made available for business led, Local Enterprise Partnerships (public partnership being a key element) to promote economic growth and these look set to become an influential force in land use development, but I doubt whether all businesses with significant real estate holdings are taking note and promoting their future land use aspirations in the right places.