In Conversation With… Marnix Elsenaar

Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard

Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard

We are regularly in conversation with a plethora of leading figures in the property, investment, finance and charity sectors, many of whom are guest authors for PRSupdate. The purpose of this feature is to get them to discuss the topics and issues that are currently affecting the Private Rented Sector.

If you would like to take part in an In Conversation piece then please do get in touch with us.

Today we are in conversation with Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard.

Marnix, can you tell us a little about your background?

I’m a planning lawyer and Head of the Housing Group at City law firm Addleshaw Goddard. I’ve always had a passion for housing and regeneration and it’s really exciting to be working in a sector that has such a high profile and makes a difference to so many people’s lives.

What does your role at Addleshaw Goddard entail?

I head the Housing Group and the Planning Team. My role is to draw the expertise we have across the firm together and make sure we’re engaged with the market and out there meeting people. So far, it’s going well and we’re very busy on several eye catching Private Rented Sector (PRS) schemes, social housing projects and major new housing sites for our housebuilder clients

What challenges can developers face when applying for planning permission for a Private Rented Sector development?

The big planning challenge for the PRS is viability and affordable housing. The advice on viability in the National Planning Practice Guidance states that, for PRS developments, a different approach may be needed to planning obligations. Some planning authorities recognise that the PRS should be treated as a separate class of housing without the need to provide the same level of affordable as traditional build for sale schemes. However, others don’t make the distinction, or not to a sufficient extent, which has an adverse impact on scheme viability.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the UK’s planning laws?

There are two major challenges for the planning system at the moment.

First, it’s trying to deliver growth and localism at the same time. The growth agenda involves more central control, with more permitted development rights and failing authorities being put into special measures. Localism is all about local people deciding what gets built in their area. The challenge is to square the two.

Secondly, skills and resources. The government has made some welcome changes to the system, such as introducing the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), but now it needs to make sure local authorities have the skills and resources to deliver an effective and efficient service.

What is the most important thing the government can do to improve planning laws?

The government should be realistic about what the planning system can achieve. It is expected to deliver a balance between the landowner’s plans and the wishes of the local community, deliver contributions for roads and local services, provide affordable housing and community infrastructure levy payments while also being quicker and cheaper.

On the whole it does quite well and I don’t think major rule changes are needed but the industry must have the skills and resources to make the system work effectively.

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