I have now retired from both conventional consultancy work and the provision of teaching and training services. The material here is no longer maintained but is still in use for the RTPI CPD and other training courses. I hope you find it helpful. Please get in touch using the form on the contact page if you have any specific queries.
It took a lot of (unpaid) work to create this stuff and there is no charge for using any of it. But I would be grateful if you could express your appreciation by making a donation to Sightsavers, a charity which provides cost-effective treatment for blindness, mostly in Africa. See their website here.
Development, Viability & Planning
This is my basic guide on what drives development and developers. It includes a guide to viability appraisals. This latest version has been drafted to support the forthcoming RTPI online course on viability and also includes numerous corrections and updates.
Viability Podcast One (Basic Principles)
Viability Podcast Two (Development & Developers)
Viability Podcast Three (An introduction to Appraisal)
NB These audio podcasts are in mp3 format and downloadable (right click and select 'save as') and should also play in your browser if you simply click on the link. At present the sound quality varies a bit; my apologies for that. They were updated in 2014.
These are transcripts for each podcast.
Viability Podcast 1 Transcript
Viability Podcast 2 Transcript
Viability Podcast 3 Transcript
Delivery Strategies for Masterplans and Area Action Plans
I was commissioned to write this by the RICS and trust that it does what is says on the tin although it is now a little long in the tooth. The full version of the Guide is here. There is a summary, which is probably too brief to be useful here.
Getting Schemes Moving Again
This short note covers some of the things that a planning authority might want to think about when trying to kick start larger scale housing development.
Developing Space for Small Business
This is my guide to the economics of providing space for small businesses.
Simple example commercial model
Simple example residential model
Alternative example commercial model
Two simple appraisal models that were used on the PAS course on viability skills for planners and tidied up for me by Phil Wallbridge at Roger Tym & Partners plus a variation on the commercial model using a wider range of variables.
Does Good Design Increase Development Returns?
This is a review of some of the various reports and papers on this topic together with some personal conclusions.
Infrastructure Costs Ready Reckoner
This guide runs through typical requirements and costs for a wide variety of types of social and open space facilities, the main exception being transport. These costs estimates are now well out of date and frankly I have only left this here because there seems to be few other sources of this information. You can update these figures using the links construction cost inflation indices further down this page.
Alternative approaches to using property as an economic development tool
This is an article I wrote for Town & Country Planning in 2011, questioning whether typical property based job creation projects are cost effective and suggesting alternative approaches.
Development Freakonomics Part 1
This is an article I wrote for Town & Country Planning in 2012 on some of the misconceptions about viability issues within the town planning profession.
Development Freakonomics Part 2
This is the follow up article for Town & Country Planning published early in 2013 with more misconceptions about viability issues in planning.
Sources of Data for Appraisals
Valuation Office Agency
The VOA Property Market Reports used to provide an invaluable useful snapshot of market movements and an indication (no more than that) of typical land prices based on historic data. This seems to have become a victim of budget cuts so the link here is now to the Government Statistics archive where you can find some of the (less valuable) reports that they still produce.
This is the best source of statistical information on the investment market. Most of this needs to be paid for but there usually some open articles on trends under 'news'.
Free registration on the Building Magazine website gives you access to a wealth of cost case studies and data on construction cost inflation etc. The case studies are especially useful because - unlike with BCIS - you can see exactly what is being costed with a detailed breakdown. Note that this link takes to to a dead page if you haven't registered first.
HCA 'Development Appraisal Tool'
This is the HCA appraisal model. It is useful for smaller scale and short term projects with a significant affordable housing content.
This free service from Estates Gazette's 'EGi' service provides details on many commercial properties on the market together with asking price etc.
Jones lang LSalle Research
Authoritative general market research focusing primarily on the major centres. You have to register to download the various reports but this is free.
The UK's largest auctioneers. Their back-catalogue provides a great repository of information on the prices obtained for less fashionable commercial properties across the UK which are very useful when trying to establish existing values, or gauging competition from existing property to a new scheme. There is also a residential auction site but I find this less useful.
Business Insider / Cognitive Biases
It is amazing how little effort is made to nullify the many biases are brought to viability assessments. This excellent slideshow from Business Insider highlights some of these. Take a look. If you don't think that your are guilty of a dozen or so ............
Smart New Homes
and New Homes for Sale
These sites aggregate details of new homes on the market. Their details, or the details on the websites of the various developers they link to, usually give you enough information to work out the asking price on a per square metre basis for comparison purposes.
RICS Market Surveys
The RICS Surveys are useful because, being based on a poll of agents who are active in the market, they provide a forward looking survey of market conditions. The navigation within the RICS site is notoriously bad, so don't stray too far!
Gardiner & Theobald
G&T provide data on trends in construction tender prices, regional variations etc.
Franklin & Andrews used to provide a good, free guide to build costs on request. It was called the 'Little Black Book'. They were then taken over by Mott MacDonald who still produce guides but on a much more sporadic basis so the most recent guide might be out of date albeit useful if you make an inflation adjustment.
Government data on construction cost inflation
This is provided by the Office for National Statistics and comprises high level inflation and other data for the construction industry.
Bank of England data on Interest Rates
For London Interbank Borrowing rates (LIBOR).
English Partnership's Guide to Remediation Costs
This Report provides useful information on typical costs for remediating of contaminated sites. I have posted it on my site because the search facility for documents on the HCA site is so utterly useless.
This online service from the Cambridge Centre for housing & Planning Research provides data on rents for social and market rental property across the UK plus access to wealth of general research on housing and planning.
Land Registry House Price Data
The Land Registry offer an easy way to access their data on house prices. The BBC service is no longer available.
Other Interesting & Useful Stuff
Cultures of Development: Property and Urban Regeneration
This piece written in 2000 by John Henneberry and Simon Guy for the RICS 'Cutting Edge' series of papers makes the case for cultivating local development firms to offset the negative effects on development of remote investors systematically over-estimating risks and missing opportunities.
Financial Viability Appraisal in Planning Decisions
This is an excellent paper by Neil Crosby and Peter Wyatt, two professors of Real Estate at the Henley Business School University of Reading. They point to flaws in the models that are often used in the planning process and which professionals are often reluctant to accept, particularly in relation to the estimation of threshold land values. This link takes you to the RICS website where you should be able to download it. Strangely (or not, depending on your point of view) the RICS don't seem too keen to give this much prominence.
Assessing the Assessors
This article by Pat McAllister & Peter Wyatt of Univ.of Reading appeared in RICS Business in June 2010. It summarises (accurately in my view) the shortcomings of the traditional approaches to appraisal in the planning context.
In seminars I am often asked technical questions about the economics of the housebuilding industry. In 2008 the Office for Fair Trading commissioned a review of the topic by John Calcutt, a former Chief Executive of Crest Nicolson and the Housing Corporation. Annexes E (on Financing) and O (on calculating residual land values) are most useful. Links below.
Calcutt Review Annexe O
Calcutt Review Annexe E
The London School of Economics host public lectures on economics and related issues. Two are particularly relevant to my interests.
In February 2014 Paul Cheshire, a Professor at the LSE, demonstrated the entertaining proposition that trophy archites add nothing to the economic value of tall buildings in London, but did succeed in extracting permission for much higher buildings from the planning system.
Link to Podcast of Prof. Cheshire's Lecture
In 2011 Francis Salway, the former Chief Executive of Land Securities provided an interesting insight into the economics of commercial development from the perspective of a behemoth of the industry.
Link to Francis Salway's Lecture