Consultancy Survey - Winners and losers

There are no prizes for guessing which sector of the planning consultancy market has taken the biggest hammering during the current downturn in development activity.

With the housing market stalled, consultants are expecting the value of residential commissions to fall by around six per cent this financial year. Yet there are still signs of life in this key market. Some developers see falling land values as a golden opportunity for land acquisitions, leading to new consultancy work.

Representations on local development frameworks (LDFs) to secure future housing allocations are holding up, adaptation of schemes to changing market conditions is still under way and housing association work continues. "Housing renewal and strategies for delivering affordable housing in the absence of developer contributions will come to the fore," predicts David Lock Associates managing director Lawrence Revill.

"The worst-affected areas are reserved matters and full applications for residential projects and section 106 payment triggers once permission has been granted," explains Andrew Martin, principal at Andrew Martin Associates. "When house builders are selling very few homes, they do not want to increase financial risks and would rather delay approvals until sales revive."

Barton Willmore senior partner Ian Tant says major house builders are focusing scarce resources on their most important schemes. "The slowdown is making it more difficult for regeneration schemes that rely on housing sales to kick-start wider land-use change. But the underlying need for housing remains powerful. By the time we are through the recession, we will have a lot to deliver in relatively short timescales," he insists.

Other sectors are suffering more gradually. "The commercial market is strong at present but this will slow down," predicts Hunter Page partner Paul Fong. "House builders have been the first to reduce activities, with the mixed-use developers following," adds Stephen Brown, head of planning, development and regeneration at GVA Grimley. "The private sector downturn is most noticeable in residential but increasingly prevalent across all property sectors," says Drivers Jonas head of national planning Giulia Bunting.

"All types of commercial development consultancy will suffer," warns BDP director Francis Glare. "We are seeing a flurry of activity as private clients seek to renegotiate planning positions to improve viability and protect value. But this will only provide temporary relief. You only have to look at the fall in application fee income to see evidence of the downturn in activity."

Retail and town centre work presents a mixed picture. "Food retailers are still trying to carve out market share and we are still involved in three or four city centre regeneration schemes," says DPP senior partner Richard Flack. "The direction of planning guidance means that we are going to see much more focus on that. The retail market has not quite reached saturation."

White Young Green Planning managing director John Whittaker notes: "The retail market is reasonably strong due to the complexities of the planning regime, which means potentially more sites coming onto the market because they have less value for other uses. Retailers are getting more opportunities to look at other sites. Food retail is relatively recession-proof and might even benefit. We have all got to eat."

Turley Associates managing director Rob Lucas is more pessimistic: "Major retail-led mixed-use schemes under construction have continued, but the pipeline for town and city centre retail and offices has slowed. Regeneration schemes underpinned by these uses and private sector partners are suffering. Distribution sheds have slowed too as developers hold out for pre-lets before committing to the planning process."

Cristina Howick of Roger Tym & Partners finds that public sector regeneration plans are now more challenging, with profit margins shrinking and house building no longer a panacea. "Rethinking these plans needs financial as well as planning expertise," she says. "There will be new opportunities in job creation projects as policy shifts towards managing decline."

Health and education projects are providing one buffer against the slowdown. "Where the government has committed money, these markets are still resilient," says Niall Roberts, joint managing director at Tribal MJP. Roger Hepher, head of planning and regeneration at Savills, comments: "We are optimistic about the energy, health care, education and sports sectors, even in difficult trading conditions."

Plan-making and the studies required to meet soundness tests are an increasingly important source of revenue. Bidwells partner Andrew Blackwell expects a busy year representing clients on LDFs. "Our workload on providing the evidence base to support core strategies is increasing and we have brought people in to strengthen our offer in these sectors," says Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners managing director James Fennell.

Several consultants report positive signals for an increase in infrastructure work. "There are very good prospects for supporting major infrastructure developments, particularly in the energy sector," says Simon Witney, head of planning and development at Jacobs. "Despite the mayor of London's decision to restrict capital spend on major projects, the same could be said about transport, particularly rail."

Atkins director Paul White sees nuclear energy as the biggest growth area next year, with promoters now formulating their plans ahead of an expected a national policy statement. "The need to plan energy infrastructure is increasing substantially as demand increases," agrees RPS Group chief executive Alan Hearne, citing wind farms, nuclear and coal-fired power stations, natural gas terminals, gas storage, energy from waste plants and carbon capture and storage.

Enviros commercial director Tim Hammond has seen a major upturn in waste planning opportunities in the last 12 months and expects this trend to continue as demand for new facilities increases. "The waste sector is likely to have some immunity from the recessionary forces in other development sectors," he suggests.

The stage looks set for battle royal as consultancies slug it out for a share in these vital markets. "The firms most affected by the downturn will be those specialising in a single subject area," forecasts John Rhodes, director of RPS's London planning offices. "Firms involved with larger, longer-term projects will continue to do well, as will those associated with the strongest or most adventurous smaller developers."

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 9,110,000
2 Drivers Jonas 8,500,000
3 GVA Grimley 6,900,000
4 Barton Willmore 5,900,000
5 Halcrow Group Ltd 4,800,000
=6 Atkins Planning 2,800,000
=6 Savills 2,800,000
8 CB Richard Ellis Planning 2,700,000
=9 DPP 2,500,000
=9 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 2,500,000
11 Turley Associates 2,302,000
12 GL Hearn 1,800,000
=13 DTZ 1,500,000
=13 King Sturge 1,500,000
=13 White Young Green 1,500,000
16 David Lock Associates 1,410,000
=17 Atisreal Ltd 1,300,000
=17 Rapleys 1,300,000
19 Tribal 1,020,000
=20 CgMs Ltd 1,000,000
=20 Pegasus Planning Group 1,000,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 7,150,000
2 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 5,800,000
3 Turley Associates 4,696,000
4 DTZ 4,000,000
5 GVA Grimley 3,500,000
6 DPP 2,750,000
7 White Young Green 2,600,000
8 Savills 2,300,000
9 CB Richard Ellis Planning 2,200,000
=10 GL Hearn 2,000,000
=10 Indigo Planning Ltd 2,000,000
12 Barton Willmore 1,900,000
13 Drivers Jonas 1,600,000
14 Roger Tym & Partners 1,100,000
15 Peacock & Smith 900,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 6,270,000
2 Turley Associates 2,791,000
3 Barton Willmore 2,400,000
=4 Atkins Planning 2,000,000
=4 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 2,000,000
6 Drivers Jonas 1,750,000
7 Atisreal Ltd 1,400,000
8 DPP 1,250,000
=9 CgMs Ltd 1,000,000
=9 DTZ 1,000,000
=9 White Young Green 1,000,000
12 King Sturge 800,000
13 Scott Wilson 797,000
14 Pegasus Planning Group 750,000
15 Savills 700,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 8,040,000
2 Turley Associates 6,210,000
3 Pegasus Planning Group 6,000,000
4 Barton Willmore 4,700,000
=5 GVA Grimley 2,500,000
=5 White Young Green 2,500,000
=7 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 2,200,000
=7 Savills 2,200,000
=7 Tetlow King Group 2,200,000
=10 CgMs Ltd 2,000,000
=10 Drivers Jonas 2,000,000
12 Atisreal Ltd 1,520,000
13 Halcrow Group Ltd 1,500,000
14 GL Hearn 1,300,000
15 DPP 1,250,000
16 Scott Wilson 1,191,000
17 CB Richard Ellis Planning 1,100,000
=18 Atkins Planning 1,000,000
=18 DTZ 1,000,000
=18 Indigo Planning Ltd 1,000,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 4,520,000
2 Barton Willmore 3,700,000
3 Halcrow Group Ltd 3,000,000
4 Atkins Planning 2,200,000
5 Pegasus Planning Group 1,900,000
6 Drivers Jonas 1,750,000
7 David Lock Associates 1,730,000
=8 GVA Grimley 1,500,000
=8 White Young Green 1,500,000
10 Entec UK Ltd 1,480,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 10,150,000
2 Halcrow Group Ltd 4,000,000
=3 Atkins Planning 2,000,000
=3 GVA Grimley 2,000,000
5 Scott Wilson 1,975,000
6 ERM 1,000,000
7 Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd 750,000
8 SLR Consulting 570,000
9 Adams Hendry Consulting Ltd 413,000
10 Savills 340,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 3,290,000
2 SLR Consulting 3,250,000
3 Atkins Planning 1,500,000
4 Enviros Consulting 900,000
5 ERM 750,000
6 Entec UK Ltd 552,000
7 Land Use Consultants 533,680
8 Scott Wilson 504,000
9 White Young Green 500,000
10 Alliance Planning 300,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 SLR Consulting 1,275,000
=2 Drivers Jonas 1,200,000
=2 Savills 1,200,000
4 Atkins Planning 1,000,000
5 RPS Group plc 820,000
6 Atisreal Ltd 750,000
7 Turley Associates 609,000
8 GVA Grimley 500,000
9 Scott Brownrigg 415,000
10 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 400,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 Atkins Planning 2,000,000
2 RPS Group plc 1,750,000
=3 Barton Willmore 1,500,000
=3 GVA Grimley 1,500,000
5 Entec UK Ltd 1,200,000
6 Pegasus Planning Group 1,000,000
7 Scott Wilson 941,000
8 David Lock Associates 784,000
9 Roger Tym & Partners 700,000
10 Taylor Young Ltd 650,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 2,920,000
2 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 1,800,000
3 Turley Associates 1,275,000
4 HLL Humberts Leisure 1,200,000
5 Barton Willmore 800,000
6 Savills 750,000
7 Drivers Jonas 650,000
8 DPP 625,000
=9 DTZ 500,000
=9 GVA Grimley 500,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 4,230,000
2 Atkins Planning 1,500,000
3 Entec UK Ltd 1,200,000
4 Land Use Consultants 953,000
=5 ERM 900,000
=5 Savills 900,000
=5 SLR Consulting 900,000
8 Scott Wilson 816,000
9 White Young Green 700,000
10 DPP 625,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 SLR Consulting 1,750,000
2 RPS Group plc 980,000
3 White Young Green 800,000
4 Entec UK Ltd 578,000
5 Scott Wilson 370,000
6 Pegasus Planning Group 300,000
=7 Alliance Planning 250,000
=7 ERM 250,000
9 Halletec Associates 210,000
=10 Three equal tenth 200,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 3,320,000
2 GVA Grimley 3,000,000
3 DTZ 2,500,000
4 Atkins Planning 1,900,000
5 Scott Wilson 1,550,000
6 Halcrow Group Ltd 1,300,000
7 Tribal 910,000
8 Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners 900,000
=9 Barton Willmore 800,000
=9 Pegasus Planning Group 800,000

Rank Consultancy Fee income
2008 2007-08

1 RPS Group plc 1,680,000
2 Barton Willmore 1,600,000
3 David Lock Associates 836,000
4 DPP 625,000
5 Savills 550,000
=6 DTZ 500,000
=6 Roger Tym & Partners 500,000
=6 White Young Green 500,000
9 Land Use Consultants 496,000
10 Entec UK Ltd 410,000

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