Adrian Penfold is head of planning at property at developer British Land. Penfold is responsible for overseeing planning issues and public affairs for British Land which is the UK’s second largest property company with a commercial property portfolio worth £12bn. He is a member of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s planning sounding board and in 2010 carried out a government-sponsored review of non-planning consents.
Q What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
The company puts in over a hundred planning applications a year – I take responsibility for the larger ones and am measured on whether the permissions are secured in a timely fashion and due diligence is carried out when sites are purchased so that the development potential is accurately understood at that stage.
Q What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
You should treat the local authority and local community as partners. Securing a planning permission is a negotiation, but you must appreciate the aspirations and objectives of all parties. We need to ensure that all sides feel that they have got something out of the planning process and will benefit to varying extents from the development. Engaging with the local communities does not just involve putting up a few boards during a consultation but developing a long term relationship. We tend to focus our major development activity in a few local authority districts so it is important to work on these relationships.
Property companies and their planning consultants need to try to understand how the civil servants working for central government understand the issues affecting development. The DCLG’s planning sounding board is an opportunity to share views and, despite its range of members from different interest groups, there is consensus on many issues and the civil servants get a clear message from us.
You can learn a lot from other people and you need to use all their expertise. Development is a team sport and you should treat your consultants as part of the team. We tend to use the same consultants a lot and value their input on a formal and informal basis. All those involved in managing property in British Land also need to understand about planning. It is important that the asset and investment managers and all the other members of the team at British Land are kept up to date as planning procedures change.