Richards on ... taking care in time of crisis

Everyone is talking about the slowdown.

It is real and it is happening everywhere, affecting everyone in very different ways. Most importantly, it is happening to you - but be well prepared and you will come out of it well.

The most noticeable impact is likely to be on major schemes that realise corporate ambitions and aspirations, deliver for partners and are locally important. Talk to councillors, your chief executive and other senior managers about the effects. Anticipate their concerns, think worst case, keep in mind what is possible and be clear and honest. Secure a corporate commitment to bringing schemes forward and keeping them on track.

You will be approached by developers, agents, landowners and their friends all wanting to renegotiate schemes. It is clear that things are getting very tough for the development industry. Still, that is no reason to give it all away. This is the time to keep focused on the outcome.

What do you want from the development? How does it fit with your broader strategies? What about the deliverability soundness test? When you renegotiate, always bear in mind that the market will pick up. Do not be pushed into a knee-jerk reaction now, because in the long term the panic will die down.

Finally, remember that you are not dealing with this alone - many planners are experiencing the same challenges. This is a good time to learn from your peers and share experiences. Visit the Planning Advisory Service discussion forums at www.communities.idea.gov.uk. The credit crunch has to be taken seriously, but you have to be level-headed too. Compromises may be needed, but ideals should not be sacrificed.

- Sarah Richards is head of the PAS.


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