This article was first submitted a few weeks ago as a commentary on the potential for fundamental reforms to the planning system and whether the industry should embrace change or fear yet more upheaval.
That was before coronavirus enveloped the world, presenting the industry with upheaval on an unprecedented scale.
Hence my quick pivot to two new themes: firstly, why the industry remains vital to our national economic recovery and secondly, what we should do in order to carry on and prepare ourselves for the huge task ahead.
Whilst the UK fights the healthcare pandemic and other sectors inevitably get more of the attention, homebuilding remains fundamental to the future strength of the nation. The long-term housing supply crisis hasn’t gone away and kickstarting housebuilding and the wider housing market, where most household wealth is invested, will be crucial to economic recovery in communities across the land.
We have endured war, pestilence and economic crises in the past (indeed, a hundred years ago all three in quick succession), but experience shows that we never emerge in quite the same shape. A legacy of 2008 was a loss of small builders, many wiped out within months, and it is likely that this new crisis will once again reshape who is left standing and what commercial and tenure models flourish in the future.
So, while for now we must all follow the Government advice to protect ourselves, our families and the public at large, we must also – as in other areas of life – adapt to the new normal so that we can still carry on business.
Today the resilience of the internet and ubiquity of mobile phones means that we can effectively replace the face-to-face techniques used in sales suites, construction site liaison meetings or at planning consultation events. Adversity breeds innovation and whilst businesses will be tackling a wall of financial and logistical challenges just now, the smartest will recognise the importance of continuing to talk and engage with all stakeholders.
In this respect, BECG and the wider communications industry are part of the solution here. We are resourced and experienced in crisis management and digital engagement and can help clients who need additional support and expertise.
In the meantime, please keep safe and prepare for the recovery. The country needs you.
This article first appeared in Housebuilder Magazine’s April edition. You can view it here.