Ethical Property

A breakfast workshop was organised by Lichfields, supported by Shoosmiths and Ethical Reading, on Wednesday 27 February 2019. The aims were to explore consensus among professionals on good and bad practice, to swap experiences and to explore any next steps.

The organisations represented were Bottomline, Countryside Partnerships, Ethical Reading, Francis Construction, Jennings, Kat Creative, Lichfields, Reading Borough Council, Savills, Shoosmiths, Stowe Family Law LLP, Systra.

The scene was set by defining ethics as what is good for individuals and society. A number of topics were on the table for discussion, given the range of headlines over the past few months: and three topics were chosen for further discussion:

Topic: What is a fair return?
• “One which properly compensates investors for the risk they are taking with their capital ….but in the longer term also need to price in both positive and negative environmental and social external factors” – Simon Chisholm, Resonance Ltd
• Community Profit share- profit share above a minimum return to the land owner – then community should have some involvement into how some of that is reallocated back into the community – Matthew Weiner, U&I (Property Week)
Agreements in the group were that development works best when there is a long-term relationship/proven track record between parties. Trust and transparency is key.
The group disagreed on what was an acceptable level of return.

Topic: Taking communities along
The classic problem is NIMBY – development is good but not in my backyard. However this related to social housing Estate Regeneration, an area of growing political controversy. Current cases in London raised the question about who/when/what benefits?
Agreements: Community getting to vote on estate renewals: – it wasn’t felt that this would necessarily promote development. Also causes a further risk and concern for developers where there are already avenues for consultation through the planning process
Disagreements: None

Topic : Systemic sustainability issues
• At a very high level, the objective of sustainable development can be summarised as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
NPPF / United Nations.
• Any improvements on this?
• Some (but not all) developers can be regarded as paying lip service to sustainability issues. There is potential for sustainable measures to be considered a nice to have rather than requirement. Should more be done rather than just the minimum required for planning permission?
• More thought should be considered to future-proofing schemes
• More emphasis on other elements of sustainability such as health and well-being should also be considered.
• There should be more strength on sustainability issues in policy/legislation
• This is not just an issue for the development industry.
Disagreements: None.

One topic of interest, which there was not enough time to pursue, was whether the Ethical Codes of the Professions were fit for purpose.

In conclusion, the group were introduced to Constructing Excellence, with the thought that this could be a vehicle for taking the agenda forward.

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