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Scottish Tory leader calls for Housing and Infrastructure Agency to solve housing crisis

Words: Laura Edgar
Ruth Davidson

A modern generation of new towns and a Housing and Infrastructure Agency are required in Scotland to help alleviate the country’s housing issues, says Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

In a speech in Edinburgh outlining the housing and planning situation in the country, Davidson argued that “radical” ideas need to be examined, but “nobody in central government in Edinburgh is offering strategic solutions”.

Setting out her ideas for solving the housing crisis, Davidson proposed new towns, citing the five that were built during the original new towns programme – East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Cumbernauld, Livingston and Irvine.

For the Conservative leader, it is now "time to seize the moment – and look at a series of new-generation new towns”.

On planning, she said “the mess that is the planning system” needs facing up to, with the forthcoming new planning bill set to “fail to be sufficiently radical in making it easier to build private sector housing”.

Davidson suggested extending simplified planning zones, which are currently being piloted by the Scottish Government, saying they should be expanded across the country.

She said she doesn’t think people are natural Nimbies, but that communities don’t think they are listened to and are often opposed to new housing because many homes are ugly and unaffordable.

Davidson said the party supports the creation of a new national Housing and Infrastructure Agency that would deliver basic infrastructure, such as roads, around which new housing can be built. To demonstrate support for such an agency, a combined housing and infrastructure minister should be part of the cabinet.

“To be clear, I am not talking about taking planning control out of the hands of local authorities and local communities.

“This is about national government providing the strategic direction that allows local communities to press ahead.

“It could restore trust in new housing.”

RTPI Scotland director Craig McLaren has spoken on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC One Reporting Scotland about Davidson's ideas.

McLaren outlined how new towns may be part of the answer, but that it is also necessary to explore how best to use existing derelict land, to extend existing towns and cities, and to look at how best to make use of existing vacant properties. Building houses “in the middle of nowhere” without the services and facilities people need should be avoided, he said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to outline her Programme for Government for the forthcoming Parliamentary year tomorrow (5 September).

Image credit | Gareth Miller