London Town takes the view that brownfield schemes that have strong regenerative attributes are important for the capital's economic and social sustainability. We have tried hard to transform disused brownfield sites into high-density, architecturally striking, mixed-use schemes. We therefore welcome any initiative that supports high-quality development and prevents the regeneration of a city at the cost of its architectural integrity.
Whether Lord Rogers' vision is being implemented effectively is a matter of perspective. Providing a holistic solution to England's housing needs and repairing generations of neglect is not a task that can be completed overnight. London is leading the way, with most of the capital's developers now using highly renowned architects to design their schemes. In addition, more careful attention is being paid to integrating these schemes into existing communities through a variety of methods, including affordable housing, planning gain and even the landscaping of the development.
Strategic planning policies should be urgently reviewed in recognition of the fact that a planning consent is the most effective way to encourage new investment in an urban location. The GLA's Spatial Development Strategy is a step towards effective planning reform, but government intervention is needed. It should not be left to developers and planners to negotiate a way of implementing Lord Rogers' vision. Instead, legislation should be in place to simplify the planning process at a local level with flexible local development plans that are less prescriptive and more strategic in nature. Having said that, the urban taskforce has provided a strong long-term solution to urban regeneration which is already being implemented.
Lord Rogers' proposals for the regeneration of the urban environment are a must if we are to deliver sustainability to our cities. His proposed measures for regenerating our towns and cities to provide a significant percentage of the 3.8 million homes needed by 2021, including much-needed social and key worker accommodation, are a step in the right direction. But I believe delivery is falling short of what is needed.
As a developer, I believe there are two reasons for this. First, I agree with Lord Rogers' own criticism of the way in which his proposals are being implemented. To date, there has been a lack of government involvement to clarify the process and provide the necessary vision for the proposals to succeed. For developers particularly, this translates into uncertainty when it comes to issues such as developing on brownfield land or the allocation of social housing provision, with no consistent guidelines. The planning green paper will go some way to helping this if local authorities embrace it in its entirety.
Second, too much social responsibility is being shifted on to the developers alone. We are obliged to provide a high percentage of units for social housing on each new development. There is a valid reason for this, but private developers need to make a profit if they are to contribute to society and the environment in the longer term.
I can think of no other industry where a manufacturer is obliged to give away a quarter of its products at a discount. What is exasperating is that the playing field is in no way level. There appears to be little consistency in the application of the social housing requirement, with the percentage delivered depending on how hard you negotiate and with whom.
If the proposals of the urban taskforce are to be successful, there needs to be a more defined and consistent long-term strategy, with government in an active role at the helm, supported by local government, which encourages and rewards participation from all parties involved in the regeneration process. This, I believe, offers the best way to get developers on board in bringing about an urban renaissance in our cities and making them a place where everyone can live.