Much-needed new homes are being held up in the planning system because local authorities are increasing the expectations on developers to deliver infrastructure solutions such as new local schools, according to Homes for Scotland.
In evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament’s education & skills committee before last week’s Budget announcement, the house building trade body urged the Scottish Government to explore different models for funding the development of schools to allow its members to deliver the homes that Scotland needs.
Interim director of policy, David Ogilvie, said Homes for Scotland is “acutely aware” of the scale of housing challenge currently facing Scotland and that its member companies “are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government to tackle the country’s under-supply of housing and help it to achieve its ambition of improving opportunity for all”.
But he added that a ‘joined up’ approach to housing is “clearly required” if the many positives new housing delivers are to be fully maximised and emphasised the need for a discrete capital funding stream for the development of new schools and associated infrastructure.
Submitting the evidence, Mr Ogilvie said: “Our members are becoming increasingly mired in intractable negotiations with planning authorities over the extent of planning gain expected from new home developments in their area. While our members are perfectly content to deliver new affordable homes in the local area, or to contribute towards the provision of additional schools capacity in a locality, the fact is that the scale of planning gain expected in some parts of Scotland is so great, or the timing expectations for delivering infrastructure solutions are such, that it is impacting negatively on development viability.
“The consequence is that much-needed new homes are being held up in the system because of an entirely avoidable Catch 22 scenario. We do not believe that home builders should be expected to bear the full burden of funding or front-funding new schools infrastructure via Section 75 contributions.
“While we will continue to work tirelessly with the Scottish Government to meet the housing needs of Scotland’s people, we would highlight that the home building industry is not solely responsible for Scotland’s population growth or the demographic change which is driving the need for more homes and therefore more school places.
“We would therefore wish to see Scottish Government bringing forward in the Scottish Budget 2018-19 a discrete budget heading designed to overcome the shortfall in capital funding for schools, which will unlock numerous sites across Scotland and allow us to ensure the delivery of new homes. This funding will either help get projects moving through the provision of the full upfront capital needed to deliver an education solution in an area (that can then be paid back in part at least through appropriate developer contributions) or the funding will bridge the gap between what the development impact is assessed as being and the wider education needs that also require to be addressed.”