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04/06/2018

Homes for Scotland calls for better resourced planning system

Words: Laura Edgar
New housing / Shutterstock_198728240

Trade body Homes for Scotland (HfS) has said the planning system needs to be better resourced and delivery-focused in order to deliver homes more efficiently.

In a discussion paper – Delivering More Homes for Scotland: Barriers and Solutions – HfS notes that while access to land is one reason for the “chronic” undersupply of homes, there are seven other “significant blockers”.

These include a lack of mortgage availability to those who could afford the repayments due to the requirement for significant deposits, and homebuilders, particularly those of a smaller-scale. Additionally, there is little funding for associated infrastructure, such as water systems and schools, while the planning system doesn’t “embrace” and can’t quickly consent buildable developments.

The paper comes as the Planning (Scotland) Bill is making its way through the Scottish Parliament.

It proposes a number of solutions to the problems identified, so that the number of homes required in Scotland can be delivered, including:

  • A collaborative, better resourced and delivery-focused planning system that quickly and efficiently delivers more new homes.
  • The continuation of policies that support home ownership, such as Help to Buy, as well as a consideration of other models at scale.
  • More meaningful support for small-scale homebuilders to increase industry capacity.
  • The allocation of sufficient land in places people want to live and where builders can generate a return.
  • An analysis of the New Town Development Corporation model of large-scale housing delivery, identifying options for how a new version could be implemented.

Nicola Barclay, said: "Home building is a hugely complex business but there is too little information available to help those outside the industry better understand the challenges involved. This is visible in some of the debate around planning and land reform.

“It is our job to fill that information gap and show the positive role our industry plays in Scotland – significantly contributing to debate as well as to the country’s social wellbeing and economic success. Rather than just critiquing the ideas of others, we wanted to provide genuinely useful information that will support better informed policy-making. We want this paper to mark a huge step forward in public understanding of homebuilding.

“Scotland's home builders are a positive part of our country’s future. It is therefore vital that land reform, planning reform and all other changes that affect them are informed by them.”

Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning, added that there are “real challenges” that could have “serious unintended consequences” for Scotland as a whole, not just the housebuilding industry.

“Changes to planning appeal rights are an obvious example, but our members are also concerned that their ability to deliver more homes will be directly affected if land reform proposals are not brought forward in close discussion with those who are building homes now.

“HFS has been at the forefront of calls to make the planning system more collaborative. For Scotland to succeed, we need to deliver the homes its people need and aspire to live in. Everyone involved – from policy-makers to builders and communities – needs to consider what homes we want, where we want them and how they will be delivered.”

Craig McLaren FRTPI, director of RTPI Scotland, told The Planner: “We agree with Homes for Scotland on the need for a properly resourced planning system. Housebuilding relies on an effective planning service but we have seen a 23 per cent decrease in planning staff in local authorities in the last seven years, whilst only 0.44 per cent of council budgets currently go towards development planning and development management. There is a need for both government and councils to better recognise this in taking forward the planning bill"

Delivering More Homes for Scotland: Barriers and Solutions can be found on the HfS website (pfd).

Image credit | Shutterstock

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