True Cost of Planning Objections

Anyone attending the CitA Tech Live event at Croke Park over the next two days will be treated to a host of Irish and international speakers discussing the possible future directions that digital disruption of the construction industry might take.

One particular talk title sums it up perfectly: Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact. Key trends that we are seeing internationally include robotics on and offsite, 3D printing (which looks set to transform housing) and range of IoT or Internet of Things-enabled smart city initiatives.

Many of these seem quite futuristic, yet, an increasing number of building designs today are delivered using BIM technologies and most working sites are equipped with time-lapse cameras. Not to mention the fact that Irish engineers have been instrumental in innovating technologies to advance offsite construction globally.

Not only are things changing across the industry, the sheer pace of that change is increasing at an unprecedented rate.

But, not everything changes. It would appear that technology alone is not enough to create a culture change when it comes to sharing space. This is not an industry problem, it is a ‘people’ problem.

We can confidently suggest that all property developers are likely to experience objections (in various forms) to their proposed developments at some time. And, of course, some of these objections will have more merit than others. Unfortunately, our regulatory system is not adept at distinguishing between these right now.

The latest in a series of high profile planning ‘objectors’ (or serial objectors) was featured across most of the Irish newspapers yesterday.  While the commentary was mixed, there was a dismissive overtone of presumed NIMBY-ism, that is, ‘Not in My Back Yard’ syndrome. To be clear, we fully accept that some objections are entirely rooted in reason and logic so to write them off as NIMBY without foundation is unfair, disingenuous and, quite frankly, unhelpful to the reputations of credible property developers. Reputation matters, and this has never been so important.

The whole approach to place-making and pre-planning public consultation in Ireland is badly in need of change. This is an area that emerging technologies are focused on addressing; how to engage with the community in a meaningful, yet commercially sound way, that will have a positive impact on the success of the project. One of the solutions put forward is a kind of virtual or digital town hall, that can be accessed 24/7 from any smart device, by all project stakeholders and members of the local community.

We understand that the prospect of inviting commentary and potential (or likely?) criticism is not appealing to developers; however, this is already happening via social media. Planning and property development has always been a political issue and this is only going to become more pronounced, not less. On the positive side, a more open approach to community engagement is proven to reduce blanket objections – and the costs associated with them – as well speeding up project delivery times. At a time when industry margins are shrinking, reducing time delays and project over-runs simply makes sense.

Ian Lawlor
086 3625482

Director / Business Development
Lotus Investment Group