Interview: Mike Hows, Andrew Parker and Cllr Danny Thorpe of Greenwich Council

Thu 18th February 2016, 3:58 pm

At Sitematch London 2016, we spoke to the winners of the GL Hearn and Sitematch London Planning Authority Award from Greenwich Council: Mike Hows, assistant director, planning; Andrew Parker, planning manager – major developments; and Cllr Danny Thorpe, cabinet member for regeneration and transport.

Left to right: Andrew Parker, Cllr Danny Thorpe, Mike Hows

Greenwich won the award for consistently being the fastest at making decisions on major planning applications of all local authorities in London.

Here at Sitematch, your council won the Planning Authority Award. What, in your opinion, makes Greenwich more efficient than other local authorities

MH: We have dedicated teams to deal with major planning applications and keep track of their progress. We receive a number of major applications each year and we recently granted an application for 12,000 homes. To further improve the efficiency of the planning process, we aim to maintain good working relationships with developers. It is important for us to recognise where developers are coming from and, conversely, it is essential for the developers we work with to recognise the needs within our borough.

How important are relationships with private sector developers?

DT: Maintaining a good relationship is essential as there is not much public money available any more for social housing. We need the help of developers to secure the affordable homes that the residents in our borough need.

MH: There are a lot of land opportunities in our borough, a lot which we do not own. We actively are seeking private sector partners to bring these sites forward, so establishing a good relationship at the earliest stage is important.

What qualities does the council look for in its private sector partners?

DT: I would say the most important quality is honesty. You have to be able to look each other in the eye in public-private partnerships, and not keep things hidden. And sometimes you have to just agree to disagree when it comes to certain differences, as long as both parties are upfront about where they are coming from.

MH: I think it is important for developers to realise that we are looking for long-term partners.

AP: To add to this, I think another key quality for a developer is their ability to consistently deliver the projects we work on.

What is the key development opportunity in the borough, and is the council looking to stimulate any specific development types?

MH: Our main development opportunity at the moment is Charlton Riverside, a large opportunity area, currently a largely industrial and mixed use zone that we are looking to redevelop into a residential led mixed-use community.

AP: We are open to all development types, and we are seeing a lot of applications for residential uses. But we are equally keen to stimulate employment use in the borough. Greenwich is very much a borough of residential commuters, and we would like to see more employment opportunities.

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