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Developers’ beef over planning system is easily solved

If you go to McDonald’s you know what to expect.

The fit-out has changed since the fast food chain opened its first UK restaurant in Woolwich, London, 40 years ago, but the principle has remained largely the same.

Its restaurants are designed to look and feel alike - the company trains its staff to provide the same service and it uses modular construction techniques and long-term relationships with contractors to ensure the stores are finished to the same specification.

As McDonald’s vice-president for development tells Construction News this week, the company values relationships with contractors who will ‘go the extra mile’ to earn the confidence of its franchisees.

“If McDonald’s ran the planning system, it would let them, so why shouldn’t local authorities?”

This can be valuable work - especially for local or regional specialists - and there is more on the horizon, with refurbishments for the restaurants planned from 2015 and the provision of more roadside, two-storey drive-thrus.

McDonald’s may be looking to refresh its estate, but its menu will remain easy to select from.

You want a bigger meal? You can go large. Pay a bit more, you get a bit more.

Planning to go large?

This is somewhat similar to how some developers believe the planning system should work.

As Construction News reveals this week, developers have been discussing ways in which they could essentially supplement gaps in the planning system to speed up permission for housebuilding and commercial schemes. Basically, they want to pay a little more in fees to get a better service.

If McDonald’s ran the planning system, it would let them, so why shouldn’t local authorities?

“As the chancellor outlines further initiatives to boost housebuilding, the planning system must not form the bottleneck that holds up development”

At a time when councils are strapped for cash, it’s difficult to argue that private companies should not be allowed to make a financial contribution to improve services they benefit from.

As the chancellor outlines further initiatives to boost housebuilding, the planning system must not form the bottleneck that holds up development.

Of course, such contributions must still be - and be seen to be - fair. This must represent additional resource that is contributed for additional services.

Developers do not want it to be confused with any idea that they could buy readier access to planning services than others who have every bit as much right to them.

Talks are at an early stage. But this might be one option the government could put on the menu to benefit everyone.

Readers' comments (1)

  • In my humble opinion, ensuring such a system was transparent and protected from corruption would render it unworkable. Who would benefit - where exactly would the money end up? Even honest contributions from any one developer may result in calls of "foul" by the competition - resulting in lengthy enquiries, potentially huge extra costs and even more delays in arriving at an outcome. Nice idea though...

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