Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight December 2018 31 Unlocking stalled development sites Chris Plumley explores some of the most common traps in relation to stalled development sites and suggests some effective solutions. In many parts of the country the public sector is the driving force for urban growth. The trade press is awash with new mixed use, housing and investment based developments with local authorities place- shaping to bring "good growth". We are still, however, seeing too many stalled developments for a variety of very understandable but avoidable reasons. Strategic and policy hurdles Local government has many strong, charismatic leaders, members and stakeholders who drive the "just make it happen" approach to development. When they stay practically and closely involved in a scheme, it can be of tremendous benefit. Larger projects need strong leaders, advocates and champions. If, however, the leaders dip in and out and don't stay involved in the detail, that "leadership" can become a divisive distraction. The best and most inspirational regeneration leaders are the ones who we see giving authority and direction to their teams to empower them to deliver. Where that does not happen we still see officers unable to implement and schemes stalling. Similarly, the drive towards a particular outcome must have a robust policy and auditable background to it. We have seen a number of schemes recently where the intended commercial or political outcome was not reflected in the stated policies of the council. This means that officers were trying to implement an attractive scheme only to hit the policy barrier. For example, members wanted to promote the council's support of a development by the use of CPO powers. Sadly the planning policy did not support that position and so the desired outcome of a large comprehensive development project had to be scaled back. The reduced scale scheme will still be great but it is now left with a slightly negative "if only" feel to it. Option paralysis Twenty years ago, when I started advising on public sector regeneration projects, there was a relative "simplicity" to them. Almost always they were governed by a complex, but accessible, development agreement. The developer was appointed following an advert in the Estates Gazette,