Garden Villages & ‘The Green Agenda’Owen Mitchell
This week the Innesco team attended Built Environment Network’s Garden Villages and New Towns Development Conference in London. We heard from a mixture of project directors and local government leaders debating ‘The Green Agenda’ in Real Estate – with COP26 just round the corner, it’s safe to say sustainability is the buzz word on everyone’s lips.
Following a recent feature in The Times’ list of ‘Best eco homes in Britain’, West Carclaze Garden Village’s Chief Development Officer, Dorian Beresford, took to the stage to discuss the importance of planning, placemaking and value creation when developing sustainable communities. Beresford stressed that in order to secure investment, developers must have a clear and articulate plan on how the project is going to create value, whilst taking a long-term view which enables developers to be flexible – something he said he has learnt with experience.
Yet flexibility isn’t just limited to the developer. Criticism of the current planning system has been well publicised and to make such innovative plans a reality, Cornwall Council has had to keep adapting to the requirements of the project.
Beresford was joined on the panel by Richard Marsh, Project Director at Exeter City Council. Exeter has been a pathfinder in the way councils approach sustainable development and Richard puts this down to the unity and clarity of vision within the city. Key to the city’s success has been regular meetings between public, private and third sector organisations with many plans co-developed to ensure that local businesses and institutions are on the same page – through this, the Council is able to understand issues and come to resolutions that will benefit the city’s broader interests.
Although Exeter City Council’s approach has been praised, Naisha Polaine, Director at Harlow and Gilston Garden Town insisted this approach is not universal. All too often the partnership between the private sector, local government and national government is fragmented – leading to projects being abandoned after reaching the planning stage, a notion which inspired an insightful debate amongst panellists on planning reforms.
Euan Hall, Chief Executive at The Land Trust, then highlighted the increasing importance of investment from private equity funds. The growth of sustainable development in the UK is largely down to funds basing their investments on developers’ ESG credentials. Without a comprehensive ESG strategy in place, developers are much less likely to secure investment and drastic changes are already occurring as a result.
Will these changes be enough to ensure the UK is net zero by 2050? The panel acknowledged it was an ambitious target and lots of things will have to change – planning, an upskilled workforce, and a behavioural change amongst the country’s population to name a few – but the target is far from impossible.