How do they do it? Andrew Whitaker

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 30 Jul 2014

Andrew Whitaker, HBF

Andrew Whitaker is planning director at members body the Home Builders Federation (HBF).

He joined the federation as a regional officer in 1994 after working for local councils and a consultancy, and was made planning director in 2002. .    

Whitaker graduated from University of the West of England with a masters in town and country planning and was elected as a corporate member of the RTPI in 1992.

He is a member of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) planning sounding board and a number of other advisory groups, including the Taylor Review of planning guidance.

Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?

A. My role at HBF is twofold. Firstly it is to represent members’ interests to government to ensure that the planning system is fit for purpose and facilitates the environment which developers require to be able to build the houses the country needs. The second role is to ensure that the housebuilding industry understands the government’s requirements of it and to explain emerging and new policy and legislation. It is essential that I keep up to date with changes to the planning process.

I also lead a small team of planning professionals who represent the industry around the country on emerging local plans, ensuring that they are sound and robust, both in terms of providing for objectively assessed housing needs and ensure viable delivery of their housing objectives.

The HBF is a voluntary membership organisation. Members therefore judge every year, when they write their membership cheque, whether or not they believe it is good value for money and whether HBF continues to make robust representations on behalf of the industry.   

Internally, I am under constant assessment reporting directly to member task and finish groups and the HBF main board.

Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?

Good evidence is essential to back up any argument. For example, with issues like that of unmet housing need and the cost to developers of unnecessary regulations it is important to present facts rather than anecdote.

The problem isn’t always the one people think it is. Planning is a complex process and changes to any part can cause unintended consequences or have more than one outcome.

Planning is essentially about people rather than the processes. Be nice to people and they are more likely to help you find a solution.