Grosvenor Britain & Ireland addresses lack of trust in UK developers & planning system

Our new research reveals a significant trust deficit facing UK developers and councils and details commitments to address issues identified

At Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, we are arguing for a new approach to housebuilding and development after our most recent research shows public trust in the UK planning system is almost non-existent.

This year, we conducted the largest ever canvassing of public trust in placemaking in the UK, finding that just 2% of the public trust developers and only 7% trust local authorities when it comes to planning for large-scale development.

The research also unpicks the drivers of this lack of trust − the biggest being the perception that developers only care about making or saving money, with 75% of respondents identifying this as a reason for their lack of trust.

Click here to read the full research report.

Craig McWilliam, CEO of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland commented: “With opposition to development and regeneration increasing, the number of new homes being built in the UK continues to fall behind need.

“These findings are a significant wake up call to all involved in large-scale development – the public doesn’t trust developers or local authorities to act in their best interests. Together with others we must accept our responsibility, act to rebuild trust and back local government leaders shaping developments for the communities they serve.”

We believe that more homes and new spaces can be successfully delivered if trust is rebuilt – but it requires changes in behaviour on the part of private and public sector leaders. 

As a first step, we have made two commitments that we will seek to implement across our business that address the major findings of the research and drivers of distrust.

We will:

  • Increase transparency in the consultation, decision making and design process for development by enabling scrutiny from an independent and objective commentator as a large-scale development is designed and delivered;
  • Help communities better understand how to get involved and influence developments - by developing a gold standard for consultation and engagement against which the business can be held accoutnable by councils and local communities. 


We are also looking to convene a working group of representatives from the development industry, public sector and civic society to develop a ‘manifesto’ of joint pledges against which we can be judged.

Craig McWilliam added: “We are committed to meeting the call for greater transparency and openness from developers. The system will work better for us all when more people are engaged in, and understand, the process and factors involved in the planning process. This will encourage greater participation and deeper, more informed debate about the future of our towns and cities.

“Our commitments are just the starting point. Working with others in our industry, the public sector and civic organisations we want to generate real change that addresses the drivers of mistrust. We look forward to the first meeting of our working group in the coming months.”

To find out more, visit the Rebuilding Trust homepage here. Access the full findings, a summary film and discussion paper outlining the challenges that arise from the research and potential solutions.


About Grosvenor Britain & Ireland

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland creates great places where communities, business and nature thrive. 

In London’s West End, we support 9,000 residents, c1,000 businesses and 50,000 workers every day. We also create and manage sustainable neighbourhoods in London, Liverpool and across the South East of England. 

We are one part of a global, family owned business that has been developing and managing land and property for over 340 years.  Thinking long term allows us to give equal weight to the environmental, social and commercial impact of everything that we do. 

Notes to Editors

About the research

  • Incorporating social media analysis, a series of two dozen qualitative interviews with councillors, developers and members of the public and business community as well as a focus group with community leaders, the first stage of the research saw Grosvenor looking to understand and map out the different facets of the planning process through the eyes of different stakeholders.
  • This informed a second stage of research in the form of an online survey run by YouGov with 15 closed questions and a nationally representative sample of 2,183 members of the public in March 2019. This represents the largest ever canvasing of the public on trust in the planning system.

Key findings

  • Just 2% of participants said they trusted developers to act in an honest way when it comes to large-scale developments.
  • The remainder were divided between distrusting developers (49%) and feeling apathy towards them (40%), with 9% saying they don’t know.
  • The picture for local authorities is not too dissimilar. When asked whether they trusted their local council to make decisions on large-scale development that are in the best interests of their local area, just 7% of respondents said they did. Over a third (36%) said that they distrusted their council, while half (50%) expressed apathy. The remainder 7% said they don’t know.  
  • People who have interacted with the planning system are more likely to think large-scale development has had a negative impact on their local area. Of those respondents who had either shared their views with the local council on a development project, or attended a public consultation, over 60% (66% and 62% respectively) felt negatively about the impact of development on their local area.
  • The biggest driver of distrust in developers was the perception that they only care about making or saving money: 75% of respondents identified it as a reason for their lack of trust. The second most commonly cited reason for distrust was the belief that developers do not care about the needs of the local community (54%).
  • The drivers of distrust in local authorities are broader-based. A considerable number of participants (49%) cited councils only caring about making or saving money, while 43% believed that councils are not held to account on their promises.
  • Councils’ perceived failure to represent the requirements of the local community is also a key driver, 39% of respondents saying councils don’t care what the local community needs, and another 38% saying they don’t understand what that community needs.
  • When asked for ways to increase public trust in large-scale development, respondents cited the most popular as ways to hold private developers (74%) and local authorities (72%) to account for what was promised.
  • More opportunity for local people to influence the outcome of development (71%) and more transparency from private developers through the planning process (69%) were also popular.
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