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This Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in a round table with the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) chaired by Rt Hon Nick Raynsford.

A very interesting discussion was had on the theme of rebuilding trust in the planning system, a consistently key issue, as detailed both in Planning 2020, published in November 2018, and reiterated in the final report, Planning 2020 ‘One Year On’: 21st Century Slums?, published in January this year.  With Government mulling radical reforms to the planning system, there has never been a better time to ensure that practises are engrained to allow trust to be rebuilt and, importantly, maintained in the future.

New homes and infrastructure will be part of a community for many years, often decades.  By default, the developer will become part of that community, their neighbour, for the long term.  The relationship between the two is, therefore, vital.  And as we all know, one of the most important parts of any relationship is trust.

But how do we build trust when we first enter a community?  And how do we rebuild trust once it has been broken?  Below I have put together some tips:

  • Ensure your communications are clear and simple so there aren’t any misunderstandings which could break any trust you have built. We often talk about speaking ‘fluent human’ as this is a way to ensure everyone understands.  Sensitively educate if there are any gaps in people’s knowledge.
  • Be consistent – both in what you say and in your actions. This reliability will help you to build a stronger relationship.   This means that everyone working on the project needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet so ensure you brief project team members with regular updates.  Also ensure you always get back to people when you said you would – even if you don’t yet have an answer, let them know that you are working on it.
  • Take small steps – trust is best built gradually. Creating a strong foundation for a relationship will ensure that it has more chance of succeeding in the long term.
  • Keep your promises – think carefully before you go public with any decisions to ensure they are deliverable as going back on what you have decided will erode trust. It is better to take a little longer but arrive at a decision which is possible to implement.  For this reason, have the courage to say no if you are asked to do something that just isn’t possible, being truthful will help build the trust between you and your stakeholders.  ‘Yes people’ are not always trusted.
  • Be open, honest and humble – listen carefully, and respond. Don’t be afraid of showing that you are human, you have values and that you care.  Being authentic will help stakeholders trust you are the real deal and not trying to hoodwink them.  If you make a mistake, admit to it.  People will always respect honesty.

The building, or rebuilding, of trust will lead to the growth of confidence between all key parties, allowing us a strong basis from which we can grow.  If ‘build build build’ is the way forward, having trust in one another is more vital than ever.