In 2019, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland published the largest ever canvassing of public trust in large-scale development in the UK.
It found that trust in the planning system is almost non-existent. When it comes to planning for large-scale development, just 2% of the public trust developers and only 7% trust local authorities.
As well as measuring levels of public trust in large-scale development, the research also unpacked the drivers behind this lack of trust. It found that:
- 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.
- The biggest driver of distrust in developers was the perception that they only care about making or saving money.
- The drivers of distrust in local authorities are broader-based: 49% said councils only care about making or saving money while 43% believed that councils are not held to account on their promises.
- When asked how to increase trust, the most popular response was holding developers and councils to account for what they promised; followed by more opportunity for local people to influence the outcome of development and more transparency from private developers.
These findings tell a powerful story about the need to rebuild a social contract between councils, communities and developers. There is also some important context we should bear in mind:
- First, public trust as a whole (between individuals) has not collapsed in Britain - it’s always been comparatively low: in 2019, 39% of the public said that ‘most people can be trusted’, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. In 1981, it was only 43%.
- Second, demand for more development has increased substantially over the past decade: in 2017, 57% of the public supported more homes being built in their local area, up from 28% in 2010 (MHCLG 2018 https://bit.ly/2ZTOBIT)
- And third, the resources to build public trust – in communities and local government at least - are very tight: central funding of local authorities reduced by half between 2010 and 2018, according to the National Audit Office, 2019.
So the question might be, what do we do about this? Grosvenor has convened a group of 25 community organisations, councils and developers. Together we have been working on practical solutions. This includes a national youth engagement toolkit launched in the autumn of 2020, helping young adults directly influence planning and regeneration.
Grosvenor itself has also responded directly to the findings, publishing a charter called Positive Space that sets a new standard for public engagement in the way that places are created and managed.
You can download our discussion paper and the research finding on public trust below.