Leith Planning Limited

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Leith Planning Limited's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Leith Planning Limited is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Chris Plenderleith, executive
chairman of Leith Planning
olitical debate in Britain is dominated by three huge issues:
how to sustain economic growth post-Brexit; how to plan
effectively for the welfare of an ageing population; and how
to boost home-building dramatically so that the generations in
their twenties and thirties can get a foot on the housing ladder. As
far as housing is concerned it is widely argued that the planning
system stymies development. Claims and counter-claims are batted
to and fro: that there is a plethora of unimplemented planning
consents; that developers are taking too long to build properties;
that we should build on green belt land (fiercely resisted); that all
necessary development could be accommodated on brownfield
sites. Leith Planning, with offices in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire
and Wigmore Street in London, is a boutique town planning
consultancy operating nationwide. We seek to deliver for our
clients a sane path, knowing that politics plays a major role in
the planning process and that uncertainty is a fact of life. Chris
Plenderleith, executive chairman, elaborates.
National politics and planning
Long-term planning, beyond the political cycle, is critical, and while consensus is
often difficult to achieve, it must remain a goal. We are involved in land disposals to
HS2, major development projects in London stimulated by Crossrail, and we support
Hounslow council in promoting a rail link between Heathrow and Waterloo, including
a station at East Bedfont. We are also supporting and promoting the Northern
Powerhouse. We promote sustainable development on behalf of clients with well
over £1 billion to invest. Connecting the parties on the ground is key to delivering
growth from infrastructure investment.
One of the key drivers of demographic change is our ageing population. In the
75 to 84 age group there will be a 30 per cent increase in households during the
period 2014 to 2039. In the 25 to 34 age group over the same period, however,
there will be a reduction in households of four per cent over the same period. Social
infrastructure must meet these challenges, in the knowledge that resources will
always be finite and the money available must be used effectively. This challenge will
inevitably require greater collaboration on the ground, particularly between social
services and the NHS.
Over recent years there has been support, from both sides of the House, for
investment in mental health. We are working with Lord Patel of Bradford on new
initiatives, including the “Breaking Barriers’ programme. In Exeter, we are working
with officers and members to deliver an independent hospital for Cygnet Health
Care, owned by Universal Health Services, a Fortune 500 company. In London,
we are working with StMartin of Tours and Wandsworth and Westminster Mind,
» Executive chairman: Chris
» Established in 1992
» Offices in Lytham St Annes,
Lancashire, and London
» Services: Include initial site/
project assessment, planning
applications, planning appeals,
planning objections and
judicial reviews
» No. of employees: 13
» We have two other arms to
the business, Leith Capital
Management & Leith Planning
Leith Planning Limited
developing services fit for purpose.
Mental healthcare needs its champions,
of which we are proudly one.
Since the 1970s, there have been on
average 160,000 new homes built each
year in England. It is argued that we
need from 225,000 to 275,000 or more
homes a year – some housing lobbies
go as high as 300,000 – to keep up with
population growth and start to tackle
years of undersupply. I recently published
an article in the
Journal of Planning and
Environmental Law
entitled: “The Holy
Grail: Delivering Housing Need”, an
article written with Michael Bullock of
Arc 4. The conclusion is very relevant:
“However, the starting point for any
evaluation (of housing) is objectively
assessing requirements in a consistent
manner, endeavouring to strike a
balance between rented and owner
occupied property, providing clear
guidance on assessing affordable
need and taking account of
demographic change, in particular
the needs of theelderly.
From the point of view of the
property industry, tinkering with
leaks and blockages creates
uncertainty. The planning system
needs to be fit for purpose and
that includes correctly identifying
housing requirements. However,
the system must facilitate the
development of innovative solutions
to existing and future challenges. It
must also facilitate the reincarnation
of tried and tested solutions, which
includes new towns and villages.
The search for the Holy Grail is a
legend and goal elusive; delivering
an adequate supply of good quality
housing has proven elusive albeit it
is too important to the welfare of
the nation to give up the search.”
Local politics and planning
It is evident that many authorities which
see a large increase in their housing
need are also those with acknowledged
constraints (green belts, AONBs or
national parks). Furthermore, a number
of authorities which have seen a
reduction in their need figures are in
areas without many constraints and
so would have the capacity for greater
housing. The local political narrative,
however, is generally sceptical of
providing housing above the minimum.
Many planning applications are decided
by officers, under delegated powers,
albeit most major planning applications
are determined by members. Breaking
down the “them and us” mentality is
not always possible, though it should
always be an aim. We recognise the
importance of the Planning Inspectorate
and the courts; however, we also
invest significant time and effort in
understanding the local political narrative,
engage with members and local residents
and endeavour to deliver consent by
negotiation. Leveraged negotiation is
one of Leith Planning’s core skills.
In the 2017
Parliamentary Review
commented that: “Effective town
planning helps provide people with jobs,
homes, schools and hospitals. It also
helps reconcile the potential tension
between protecting the environment
and accommodating sustainable
economic growth and development.
However, to be effective it is necessary
to review organisational methods and
strategy, communicate concepts clearly,
promote best practice and respond
positively to today’s challenges.”
We firmly believe in “participation”.
“Consultation” too often becomes an
end in itself. Grassroots “participation”,
drawing on local expertise in innovative
ways, can deliver results. “Socially
responsible development”, which seeks
to consider both financial return and
social good, to bring about social change,
is capable of being a sound model
for public, charitable and the private
sector organisations. At Leith Planning
we embrace change. It is, however,
often surprising what can be achieved
working with the planning system we
have and working with the resources at
our disposal; more money is not always
the answer. Ultimately, those involved
in the planning process are judged by
results, and that means delivering the
development the countryneeds.
beyond the
political cycle, is
critical, and
while consensus
is often difficult
to achieve, it
must remain a


This article was sponsored by Leith Planning Limited. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy