Developer tactics

How do developers attempt to overcome local resistance to their plans?

If you are in the unfortunate position to find that plans have been proposed to build enormous out of character tower blocks in your local area, you are not alone – it’s happening all over London. Knowing how developers operate can give you a head start in successfully opposing their plans.

Developers know that the vast majority of local residents do not want a massive influx of new residents, the destruction of their views, their schools and hospitals to be overcrowded, and all their local facilites to be overwhelmed, and they use a number of tactics to get their way, in spite of almost universal local opposition. Here’s how they do it:.

  1. Long before the public gets to hear about the plans, they will have been engaging in pre-planning consultation, with local authority planning departments and councillors. Councils are almost always behind in their housing targets, and they offer what appears to be a cheap and easy way to fulfil their quotas. In many cases, they will buy land and buildings from the council which have deliberately been left derelict or not maintained in order to reduce their value.
  2. They will then be a long drawn out PR offensive with local businesses and BID groups, telling them that bringing in thousands of new people will bring them much more business, untold wealth, etc, to bring them on board. At this stage, the creation of ‘New Croydon’ will be called ‘ land improvement’ or ‘regeneration’. Business buy in to this, so most will support the scheme.
  3. The scale of the development will often be monstrous, with 18, 20 or even 25 storey tower blocks – a real concrete jungle – but any request to reduce the height will be met with the reply that the scheme is ‘not viable’ unless it is on a massive scale. ie The height in particular is usually non negotiable.
  4. When the scheme is announced to the public, a ‘consultation’ period will start, which is actually a PR offensive. Artist’s impressions and computer generated images will be created showing happy people in nice open spaces, pushing prams, etc, which in reality are more likely to be concrete canyons where with the wind howling through, infested by young thugs and adorned with ‘pavement pizzas’ and broken glass. Promises will be made regarding the upkeep of the open and public spaces which may never be kept.
Effective countermeasures involve 5 phases:
  1. Build awareness of the plans in your local community. This may involve leaflets, websites, Facebook groups, petitions etc.
  2. Ensure that everyone involved, who reads your publicity materials knows how and when to object via the planning process. The final arbiter of whether a development goes ahead is the planning department of your local authority. This may involve providing people with pre-printed forms, as a web based campaign alone will not reach all demographic groups. Some groups may require additional assistance.
  3. Ensure that as many people as possible contact the elected representatives for the area, at local council and in Parliament. The more pressure there is from the electorate, the more likely they are to publicly oppose the proposals. They will usually state that they are powerless to assist at first, but if opposition is overwhelming, they will be forced to at least state their position.
  4. Local authorities are required to ensure that local residents, residents’ associations, etc, are consulted as soon as the planning application is lodged, but in practice they often to not. Be sure to be vigilant – you only have 21 days following the application to protest.
  5. Make sure you have questions ready for developers and proposers as soon as the application is made: eg, what studies have they done regarding fire regulations? What about other aspects of the local infrastructure? Without reasonable answers, the proposal cannot be approved.