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Planning a World Class Belfast | Webinar Synopsis

Wilson Nesbitt hosted the Planning a World Class Belfast webinar on Wed 27 Apr, to help shine a spotlight on the upcoming  Local Development Plans in Northern Ireland and explain what this will mean for developers, investors and those in the housing industry. 

Following the preparation of new Local Development Plans across all of its 11 councils, Northern Ireland will experience a substantial increase in the use of Section 76 agreements to require developers to deliver social and affordable housing. The change will mean that housebuilders and developers will have the new responsibility of providing affordable housing if their development is over a certain size. 

Who attended & who was on the Panel?

The webinar was signed-up to/subscribed by 202 people from the development, planning, architecture and financing communities in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Key speakers included: Kate Bentley, Director of Planning and Building Control from Belfast City Council, Chris Bryson, Director of Planning from Gravis Planning, Danny Fowler, New Business Manager from Radius Housing, Drew Nesbitt, Partner from Wilson Nesbitt Solicitors. 

Chair of the event, Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive, Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce, who posed the following questions to the panel;

What Q&A were covered?

  • What are the upcoming changes with Section 76? 
  • What are the processes and timeframes for the emerging policies, and what impact will they have as they get implemented?
  • What are the main ambitions for the development of Belfast and how do you see the planning regime assisting us in delivering that?
  • How do you see the changes impacting the attractiveness of Belfast?
  • How will the changes affect the development of social and affordable housing across the city and beyond?
  • How should planners and developers plan for Section 76 changes?

Want to watch the Webinar Recording?

Tune in to the full webinar below;

What were the main Insights?

Each speaker shared their insights and knowledge, offering intrinsic information and highlighting the key issues that housebuilders and developers need to consider. 

Kate Bentley expressed how Belfast City Council are preparing for the change and how it will play a key part in attracting more growth to Northern Ireland.

She said: “We have to be working on a planning system that’s as effective and efficient as possible. Because to attract that kind of growth in Northern Ireland and internationally in competition with other cities, we need to meet timescales and produce high-quality developments.” 

Was Section 76 discussed?

Chris Bryson explained the logistics behind Section 76, its history and how developers and planners can ready themselves for the new changes, including what time scales they should be looking at;

“Tackling Section 76 head-on at an early stage will ease the pain of going through the process as planning agreements have  to be in place for planning permission to be granted.

“Section 76 is a huge change for housebuilders and developers, especially small scale ones. The policies may seem scary and may come as a shock, but it’s an opportunity.”

What about Housing guidelines?

Danny Fowler highlighted how Radius Housing plans to guide developers in understanding the social housing guidelines.

He said: “We welcome the change. But there is a recognition that it won’t be without some challenges, there will be even issues. Viability is probably the big question that a lot of developers have on their lips.

“We will work together with developers, especially those who have previously been scared of social housing. We see ourselves being a partner and encourage early engagement with developers.” 

What about Profitability?

Finally, Drew Nesbitt explained the financial elements and issues over profitability that need to be considered for developers. 

He said: “There’s a need for housing contributions as part of the planning process, but there are bits and pieces on negotiating an agreement, and delivery of profitability that we need to think about.

“You need to understand what it means for you, speak to people early, get professional teams on board, start talking to housing associations and partnering up with the right people.” 

Would you like to find out more?

Get in touch to find out how we can advise you and your team, on how best to prepare – early on in the development process.

Get in touch

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