With our return to office-working back in full swing we can embark on celebrating our 60th anniversary with clients and staff in-person, and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for our clients in the aftermath of the pandemic. Off the back of record turnover last year, we have increased capacity in the business in anticipation of the strong demand for our planning and development services continuing throughout 2022.
As planners we are faced with responding to the rapid pace of change – climate, health and wellbeing, geo-political and economic – while planning reform flounders and the levelling-up agenda flatters to deceive (see our analysis)
. This blog is the first in a series examining prospects in different parts of the property market as we continue to shape our business around our clients’ needs, informed by our own thought-leadership agenda.
BlackRock’s Larry Fink writes an annual letter providing an insight into the perspective of the world’s largest asset manager. Others, such as Aviva do the same, and some common themes emerge relevant to those investing in or involved with property. Fink states that over the last four decades that there has been an explosion in available capital and that banks are no longer the gatekeepers to funding. This is evident now in our work as latent demand for good quality assets has seen a massive increase in our due diligence work, emerging from fund managers, developers and state-funded institutions. Irrespective of Brexit the UK is a safe haven for investment in land and property. More generally, the availability of capital and diversity of the market continues to fuel development activity and should help see us through a period of rising inflation, and higher interest rates, without momentum being lost.
But the availability of funds is conditional on a commitment to good stewardship, as Aviva puts it; or in Fink’s more straightforward language, “…..access to capital is not a right. It is a privilege.” Central to where investment will (and won’t) flow now and in the future is a need to be able to demonstrate a genuine commitment to Net Zero Carbon (NZC), dealing with the effects of climate change and bio-diversity gain. There hasn’t been a time, since the World War II, when planning has been so key to the future of the UK land and property sector; at this point to assist the transition to a NZC future and help our clients deliver a lot more new homes. In order to do that planning reform has to look beyond the horizon of the next General Election and genuinely simplify the system to help speed up innovation and investment in new buildings; whilst pushing a bolder NZC and bio-diversity policy agenda with the backbone of Science Based Targets (SBT). Rapid digitisation will be central to the success of this (and that’s on its way soon); alongside investment in more human resources, not less. Moreover, the Government must recognise the pivotal role of planning in dealing with the effects of climate change and delivering the development needs of the Country; while not referring to it in the derogatory terms that it has too often become accustomed to.
For our part we are on our pathway to NZC by 2030, underpinned by SBT, and we have just launched our Environmental, Social and Governance web resources Lichfields | Giving more
to demonstrate our corporate social responsibility to those that wish to employ our services or partner with us. We are adapting to the ‘new normal’ of blended working, informed by the outcome of our own research report undertaken with Savanta, commissioned by Barratt, one of our leading clients Working from home: Planning for the new normal?
. The welfare focus that was central to Nathaniel Lichfield’s philosophy in the early years of our business is now reflected in the success of our Wellbeing Team and the investment we make in our learning and development programme.
The future is strong and bright for those making their first steps into planning. Come and join us, it’s such a fulfilling profession and there are countless opportunities across the whole of the UK, ranging from consultancies like us to housebuilders, infrastructure providers and local planning authorities. The next exciting and unpredictable 60 years demand perception and foresight. We look forward to working with vision and discernment for our existing clients and to forging fruitful relationships with new partners during the rest of this year and beyond; and it's down to me to thank all of you, on behalf of everyone at Lichfields, who have supported us as clients, associated consultants, and former staff members, thus far on our incredible journey.