1. How would you summarise a whirlwind year in construction?
A whirlwind! The whole construction sector had to adapt very quickly back in March and we were all thrown into a new world. People in construction are resilient but it was a huge test.
Naturally, many on site projects were put on hold but having acclimatised to the situation, we started to see activity restart quite early on as PPE and social distancing measures infiltrated onto construction sites with the extent of activity growing month by month. Conversely, those sites still in planning never really slowed down.
2. It’s also been a busy year in the planning regulatory world, hasn’t it?
It’s potentially been the start of the biggest period of change since the modern town planning system was introduced in 1947.
3. What are the key changes?
Ironically, having operated a system in this country which has formed the bedrock for planning systems around the world for more than 70 years, we now seem to moving towards an American style zoning system. My worry is that no one around the world ever seems to proclaim the merits of the American planning system and for good reason!
4. Have these changes had an impact?
Not yet as the changes are only due next year, although a lot of legislation has to pass through Parliament before then. A number of smaller changes have also been made with the Use Classes Order turned completely upside down!
5. How are you finding virtual planning committee meetings?
It’s different! Technology has been very helpful in allowing the planning system to carry on as near to normal but virtual meetings are always better with smaller numbers, meaning that Committee meetings are always a challenge. I do however miss the face to face aspect as its difficult to read someone’s body language over a computer screen!
6. How are you finding confidence among your developer clients?
Very good. Our clients generally just want to get on with things. There is an appetite to do deals and make things happen. The amount of investment continues to grow and I am confident that the property and construction sector will play a pivotal role in the UK’s recovery after Covid.
7. What is confidence like within the C+A camp?
Positive. The first few months of the first lockdown were demanding but our team has shown great resilience and strength. The situation has forced us to change the way we work and we will adopt many of these practices post lockdown, even when our offices are back fully open. We’re really looking forward to putting 2020 behind us and moving on to 2021.
8. How do you think your home city of Preston is prepared for recovery?
Like all towns and cities, Preston’s high street and hospitality sector has taken a huge hit but our city’s economy is not only reliant on retail. There are a raft of exciting developments including the completion of the next stage of UCLan masterplan and Stoneygate which will transform the city.
Preston was on the up pre-Covid and I am confident it will continue to be one of the most up and coming cities in the North West and beyond for a significant time to come.