Nick Boles is the man who saw through what was, arguably, the most important reform to the planning system for a generation.
Perhaps not the most exciting accolade in the world, but one that marks important changes for all those involved in the property industry.
Whilst his predecessor Greg Clark may have been the father of National Planning Policy Framework, Boles has been its godfather, ensuring that accompanying National Planning Policy Guidance has been implemented and that the intentions of the NPPF, namely to encourage local plan-making, are being delivered.
One of Boles’ great strengths is a questioning mind and he was sharp enough to realise that the Community Infrastructure Levy was in need of practical reforms if growth was to be facilitated.
“Under his watch various controversial use-class liberalisations were also pushed through”
At points, he would be hosting one group or another almost on a weekly basis to ensure reform was not just delivered, but delivered quickly. Under his watch various controversial use-class liberalisations were also pushed through.
If there is a pity it is that the government has often seemed reluctant to take credit for the planning reforms it has implemented, frightened to alienate the backbenches and those in the shires. It has therefore not blown its own trumpet about these important supply-side reforms, which help act as a counterbalance to Help to Buy.
Though much of the DCLG agenda is housing, Boles understood the challenges facing the property industry as a whole.
He recognised that the planning system is not only a facilitator of homes, but also a commercial property market which creates jobs, supports business and enterprise and plays an important part in maintaining a robust economy.
“His questioning approach, reluctance to accept convention… and liberal instincts will all be construction’s gain”
This recognition of the important role that the real estate industry has to play in a thriving UK economy is essential for the continued success of the construction sector.
Economists say that for every £1 spent on construction, £3 is generated for the economy, and the knowledge that Boles has acquired on property can now be put to good use with the construction sector, ensuring that real estate’s contribution to growth is maintained.
Boles brought colour to the planning brief in government. His questioning approach, reluctance to accept convention, energy, pragmatism and liberal instincts will all be construction’s gain.
Ian Fletcher is director of policy (real estate) at the British Property Federation