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Big ask, big offer: September’s meeting

3 minute read

September’s HIDB meeting brought together members new and old – alongside representatives across all 11 of Hertfordshire’s authorities – to discuss joined up collaboration across private/public sectors.

We hosted an esteemed panel of speakers which included:

  • Cllr Lewis Cocking, Chair of the HIDB and Leader of Broxbourne Council
  • Mayor Peter Taylor, Watford Borough Council
  • Helen Puddle, Strategic Project Director at Places for People
  • Cllr Richard Roberts, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council
  • Tristan Robinson, Head of External Affairs at Thakeham
  • Tina Barnard, Chief Executive at Watford Community Housing
  • Andrew Day, Sustainability Director at Hill
  • Forogh Rahmani, Director of Growth at Hertfordshire Growth Board
  • Nikki Davies, Managing Director at Meeting Place
  • Jeff Stack, Chief Executive at Broxbourne Borough Council
  • Donna Nolan, Chief Executive at Watford Council

In addition to giving a warm welcome to Forogh – in her first HIDB meeting as HGB’s Director of Growth – the event also launched HGB’s Development Quality Charter, which sets a best-practice for high-quality development across the county.

There was broad agreement in the room, across both sides, that the charter will help to raise the benchmark whilst levelling the playing field. With the charter outlining the county’s plans over the next 15 years to build 100k homes and create the same number of jobs, there is certainly a wealth of appetite across Hertfordshire for collaboration to build more sustainably.

That’s why, given the scale of the ambition ahead, we held an extended workshop session for members to discuss openly and understand the potential ‘big offer’ from developers and what the ‘big ask’ from local authorities could be…

Workshop discussions surrounding a ‘big offer’

  • Tables discussed the need for both parties to start engaging earlier in the process with community groups and parishes – to better understand what residents actually want and need
  • An understanding of whether there is a place for the offer within the Local Plan, and if so, whether it will be endorsed by cabinet members or adopted into design codes
  • It was agreed more needed to be done to tell the story of s106 contributions to the community and to gain a better understanding of regional/demographic nuances between communities
  • The workshops outlined a need for every site – regardless of size – to have its own ambitious USP
  • Some potential solutions discussed included:
    • Supporting with post-Covid resource/capacity issues at councils – the private/public sector could be more upfront with one another, having honest discussions about helping to overcome these challenges
    • A local energy plan – working with power providers to provide community air source heat pumps on developments
    • Another interesting suggestion included a community funding pot/contribution from developers, which could be offset to authorities/housing associations to help retrofit surrounding community properties ‘beyond the red line’

Workshop discussions surrounding a ‘big ask’

  • Big asks from communities can often come too late in the day, but it was seen as vital to engage early and take them on a journey, in order to gain a holistic understanding
  • It was agreed we should keep talking about the charter and work flexibly from the offset, but we should avoid moving the goalposts on the benchmark too regularly, where possible
  • HCC’s condition to improve biodiversity on its land by 20% by 2030 was seen as ahead of other local authorities
  • A request from developers included a council-led vision with greater consistency in messaging – and a need for local authorities to have a better perception of what tangibly can be delivered in a viable way
  • One developer in the room said ‘the more you put in policy, the easier it is for developers to respond’
  • It was agreed there can be more of an ‘ask’ for larger sites, but for smaller sites of 10-20 units, the ask/offer has to be proportionate
  • Members want both affordability and sustainability, but one often comes at the compromise of the other – and who should bear that cost? Often, it needs to be landowners – a potential need for more education, flexibility and pragmatism was suggested in this regard
  • Ideas included:
    • Whether there could be a premium charged for sustainable homes to offset/subsidise housing elsewhere ‘beyond the red line’
    • Building closer relationships with healthcare services – engaging more closely with GPs and even dentists on provision, in a bid to better understand local need
    • Establishing firmer SLAs (service level agreements) between parties to ensure accountability and deliverability
    • Creating a design review panel or co-design with the community to better inform forthcoming plans

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