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Data Also Reveals Doubts About Local Planning Processes, Politics

HINGHAM, MA – June 4, 2007 Public opposition to development is rampant in the United States, Britain and Canada, where recent surveys find remarkably similar opposition to large-scale development, distrust in local politicians and fears that the planning process is unfair. The Saint Index, conducted as three surveys by The Saint Consulting Group, an international land use politics consultancy, found that huge majorities in each country want no more development in their local area.

This phenomenon, known as NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), makes the planning process a political challenge for the development industry to overcome local opposition and face an increasingly hostile public in projects across the property spectrum in each country (see headline bullet points below for details). The results show that 73% of Americans oppose new development in their community, which is the lowest compared to three-quarters (75%) of Canadians and 83% of Britons. However, the U.S. has the greatest distrust of the planning process—75% say the relationship between elected officials and developers makes the process unfair, versus 60% in Canada and nearly three-fifths (58%) in Britain.

U.S. respondents also differed in the reasons for their opposition to development, with 36% saying it was a desire to protect property values, an opinion shared by only 4% of the Britons and Canadians. U.K. respondents most often (16%) cited “to protect green space and the environment, while most Canadian opposition stemmed from a desire to “protect the character of the community.”

What do these surveys mean?

“Developers in all three countries need to change the way they do business,” says Pat Fox, the Boston-based President of Saint Consulting. “They can no longer count on getting an application approved just because they think it is a good project with real community benefits. Residents are acting aggressively in their self interest to protect their real estate values and the character of their communities. They are increasingly sophisticated in their attacks, understanding that elected officials are unlikely to vote against the wishes of an angry electorate.”

Other Interesting Findings

  • Global agreement – large majorities oppose new development in their community
    83% UK
    75% Canada
    73% US
  • Majority of Americans, Britons, and Canadians give a “fair to poor” rating to their local authorities’ handling of planning issues
    66% US
    62% UK
    55% Canada
  • Perception of ‘cosy relationship’ between developers and elected officials
    Three quarters (75%) of Americans, 60% of Canadians, and 58% of Britons believe that these relationships make the planning approval process unfair.
  • Politicians take note – Your position on development is a key factor in your chances of re-election
    93% of Americans say a candidate’s position on growth is important (Senior citizens especially interested – 90% agree, 68% strongly agree)

    87% of Canadians believe the position on growth is important

    70% of Britons concur (with the senior citizens vote again being crucial; 71% agree, 51% strongly agree)

  • Active opposition to development is much more prevalent than support
    1 in 5 Canadians and 1 in 8 Britons have taken their opposition to the streets, and in the US, twice as many have opposed a project as have supported one
  • People love to shop in suburban big box stores; they just don’t want them in their neighbourhood
    6 out of 10 in both America and Canada say they enjoy shopping in big box stores but 7 out of 10 Americans would oppose one in their community; 6 out of 10 Canadians also don’t want one in their community. 51% of Britons say the government should continue to prohibit out-of-town development ,and 56% disagree with government plans to lessen restrictions on greenfield development.
  • Property values, community character, traffic and the environment are the most common reasons in all three countries for opposing development

“No matter where in the world people live, everyone is interested in protecting their homes,” added Mr. Fox. “We believe the disparity seen in reasons for opposition is more than likely attributed to cultural differences among the three countries.”

  • Some types of real estate developments are universally reviled and face stiff opposition no matter where you go:
    Casinos – Opposed by 67% of Americans, 83% Canadians and 86% Britons
    Quarries – Opposed by 76% of Americans, 64% Canadians and 76% Britons
    Landfills – Opposed by 87% of Americans, 72% Canadians and 81% Britons
    Power plants – Opposed by 75% of Americans, 57% Canadians and 79% Britons
  • Some interesting contradictions
    Senior citizens vote is crucial in U.S. and Britain, but in Canada they seem less worried about a candidate’s position on growth.

    Supermarkets face little opposition in U.S. and Canada (25% in each country), but are confronted with 59% opposition in Great Britain.

    Private housing is the least opposed use in the U.S. and Canada at 6% and 11% respectively, but is opposed by 30% of Britons.

About The Saint Consulting Group

The Saint Consulting Group began operations in 1983 and today is the global leader in land use political consultancy. Saint has 13 offices around the US and international offices in London, England and Toronto, Canada. As experts in land use politics, Saint Consulting provides political campaign expertise to win complex or controversial planning decisions. Among the property sectors that use its services are: aggregates, food retail, shopping centres, hospitals, landfill, mixed-use developers, housing, and utilities.

The Saint Index© is the first and only annual primary research tool that quantifies and tracks the politics of land use, spotlighting who actively opposes and supports real estate projects and why.

For further details, see the backgrounder and contact:
US: Stephen Shepherd at and +1 781 749 7290 ext. 7121

UK: Paul Mindus at and +44 (0) 7990 56 8667 or Nick Keable at and +44 (0) 7710 062494

Canada: Paul Devlin at and +1 (416) 934-5028, Ext. 2134

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