Property professionals can be part of a business focus group to help decide how Buckinghamshire Council makes £1.7 million of savings in its planning department.

Around 50 industry figures at Bucks Prop Fest on June 12 heard from the council’s service director for planning and environment, Eric Owens, about a service review which will look at how and where to make the required savings and invited delegates to get involved.

The council has one of the biggest planning departments in the country with more than 170 planners and deals with between 6,000 and 7,000 applications every year.

Mr Owens told the meeting at The Compleat Angler that regeneration and planning are high priorities for the council but he added: “We do have to save about £1.7m this year and next. That’s just where we are as a council, it’s where we are as a department.

“And we will do that because we need to. The impact that will have on the service and the impact that will have on our structures and our resources need to be worked out through the service review.

“But what I’ve done is I’ve worked with others to identify focus groups. One of the focus groups we’re having in July is the business focus group. That’s being put together jointly with Buckinghamshire Business First.”

He said the council will also be holding a consultation on development in the county. Three calls for sites have been held and seven scenarios will eventually be presented to the public including the concept of new settlements.

Earlier, Michael Garvey, managing director of property consultancy Chandler Garvey, laid out the business scene in Bucks which doesn’t have the number of corporates which Berkshire has but has a thriving small business environment.

He said: “Ninety-one per cent of businesses employ five people or fewer so it’s a small business engine of the economy.

“What that means is we don’t have lots of glamorous businesses like some of the surrounding counties do but we do have some centres of excellence.”

Mark Schmull, managing director of Arrow Planning, described the county in planning terms. It is, he said, the least deprived in the country but areas including Wycombe, Aylesbury and Chesham have some areas of high deprivation.

Bucks has 15,000 hectares of Green Belt, much of it in the south of the county. He argued that it is not sound planning to site housing in north Bucks for people to work at locations in the south.

And he pointed to one scheme he had represented, Marlow Film Studios, a major new proposed development in Green Belt land which had recently been refused by councillors because of its location.

He said: “When members were considering it, they were praising the quality of the scheme – they really liked it – but not here. And that ‘not here’ was focussed around the fact it was in the Green Belt.

Julia Ferguson, partner for real estate at law firm Moorcrofts, told delegates about the new demand in fitted out office space along with the new legalities that brings.

She said: “What we’re seeing is landlords now offering fully fitted out premises as opposed to the traditional route of offering a shell premises that the tenant comes in and fits out.

“And generally, they’re doing this speculatively. They’re putting in a couple of meeting rooms, all the furniture you need, desks, chairs and redecorating it to offer a modern feel to attract businesses and, in turn, to attract their staff.”

Alongside that demand, occupiers want evidence of sustainability performance credentials. A new concept to achieve that in properties, she said, is the creation of non-binding green lease provisions where parties co-operate to agree on environmental policies and practices.

But she warned: “It’s not clear whether they are tick box exercises for the larger institutional landlords to show their credentials off or how they will be enforced.”

Anyone who wishes to get involved with the business focus group can contact Philippa Batting, chief executive of Buckinghamshire Business First at

Image (l-r): Julia Ferguson, partner – real estate, Moorcrofts; Mark Schmull, managing director, Arrow Planning; Eric Owens, service Director, planning and environment, Buckinghamshire Council; Michael Garvey MBE, managing director, Chandler Garvey; Shabnam Ali, head of local economic growth at Buckinghamshire Council and Matthew Battle, managing director, UK Property Forums.


Congratulations to Michael Garvey who was awarded the MBE for services to the Buckinghamshire business community. He did not mention a word at our event!

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