Faraz Baber is the executive director for policy at business lobby group London First which is involved in debates on government policy on planning and major infrastructure projects such as the Crossrail 2 rail link across the capital. He also sits on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) planning sounding board on behalf of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors planning panel.
Q What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
I am responsible for influencing local plans across 32 London boroughs so that they up to date and contain policies that will enable development to come forward. I need to ensure rates for Community Infrastructure Levy, section 106 and affordable housing are fair and effective. I also work with the Greater London Authority on informing the London Plan. I provide thought-leadership on future policies which could aid development or make the planning system work more effectively.
Q What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?
Look at the bigger picture. Having been fortunate to work in both the public and private sector, I have a full appreciation of the pressures on both sides. It is good to understand objectives of policy more generally. For example, neighbourhood planning is a good concept, but it’s a bit clunky in London as we don’t have parish councils. Having an appreciation of the aspiration behind the Localism Act enables me to communicate to developers the importance of engaging with neighbourhood planning.
Understand how best to work with local authorities. A number of local authorities welcome the idea of working collectively and bringing forward schemes. Developers have the pressures of the market and viability, but on the other side, there are resource problems. It’s best to be as open as possible in negotiations. Where there’s a disparity, you can get problems. Good, strong early engagement sees development come through and thrive.
Keep abreast of changes in the sector. It’s important to engage early on in policy discussions. Once the gate is closed, it’s harder to shape policies in the way it needs to be done. It’s part of a planners’ job to keep a watching brief on emerging policy – if you don’t, it will come back and bite you and there’s no point complaining then. If you think passionately enough that something will effect your job then you need to get engaged.