High interest rates and land values, inflation and a slowdown in the housing market are presenting significant challenges for the development industry. The number of new planning applications submitted to local authorities continues to fall.

One trend that is gathering momentum, however, is a shift in investment from Greater London to towns, cities and regions where local authorities are open for business and ambitious in their plans to deliver new homes and create job opportunities that enable talent to be retained locally. Could it be that authorities outside of London are now the more ambitious ones?

The South Coast has always been attractive for development and investment, with multinationals including American Express and JP Morgan having large workforces based in the region. What we are seeing in places like Brighton, Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth are ambitious plans, where business investment and housing delivery are starting to align in order to create the conditions for a meaningful boost to the local economy.

It is not so long ago that large scale developments in these coastal towns would have been viewed unfavourably; yet planning officers, councillors and residents are beginning to see – and promote – the benefits they can bring to their areas.

Last month, one of Cascade’s clients, Marchmont Development Management and Peveril Securities, were successful in securing approval for a 29-storey tower in Bournemouth’s main business district. With support from Bournemouth University, the redevelopment of Holland House, an underused office building will transform into a build to rent scheme with circa 480 new homes targeted at young professionals. This is a prime example of growth and change that is being encouraged in coastal areas. Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councillors commented at the committee meeting that the development was “just what Bournemouth needs, it’s giving it a sort of cityscape, provides lots of housing and will liven the area up quite a bit” supplemented by “it’s not tall enough, I think, and we could probably do with a Shard in Lansdowne to make a real signature performance.”

Another example is the approval of the former HMS Daedalus military base in Hampshire into a housing-led waterfront scheme, Daedalus Waterfront. Providing up to 260 new homes, 15,000 sqm of employment space, 48 retirement apartments, 17,500 sqm of commercial space alongside a hovercraft museum and public open space, Gosport councillors granted permission recognising the need for regeneration. One councillor urged fellow committee members to support the scheme “because Gosport needs it, we need the jobs.”

These are challenging times for the built environment sector but there are places where investment is welcome. Of course, it doesn’t miraculously deal with viability challenges or the macro-economic factors that continue to frustrate development, but it does show that opportunities are out there for investment and that there is much to be said for the power of political will in seeing these projects come forward.

Of course, Cascade is here to help our clients navigate the political and community challenges that can arise in the built environment sector, particularly along the South Coast.