‘Thorough and far-reaching’ Planning Bill report welcomed

Sarah Boyack

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Addleshaw Goddard LLP and Ryden have given their responses to a report by MSPs which contains a list of recommendations aimed at strengthening the Scottish Government’s draft Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Aimed at addressing “frustrations” with the current system, the local government and communities committee report called for communities to be given a stronger voice in planning what their neighbourhoods look like.

Among its suggestions the committee said the legislation should “encourage more meaningful engagement on planning applications” and also include the Agent of Change principle to protect music venues from new developments.

The committee also called for the Bill to include a purpose for planning to provide greater certainty to communities and developers, and encourage more meaningful engagement on planning applications, Local Place Plans and Local Development Plans.

Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs at SFHA, described the report as “thorough and far-reaching”.

Ms Boyack said: “The SFHA recognises that the new Planning Bill represents an excellent opportunity for planning to enable the delivery of more affordable homes, create better places and increase equality and social justice in Scotland. This is why SFHA gave evidence to the committee on the content of the bill, and we welcome much that is in the report.

“In particular, we welcome proposals for a purpose for planning to be enshrined in the bill, with an aim to create quality places, meet a human right to housing, and achieve climate change targets.

“We also welcome proposals that Simplified Development Zones, which could help deliver more homes, must follow full community consultation and be properly master planned to deliver better places.

“We agree with the proposal for Local Place Plans to be properly resourced and, in particular, for support to be made available to disadvantaged communities to develop plans.

“We are also encouraged by the committee’s call for discussions and proposals for land value capture, which we believe could support increased delivery of homes of all tenures, to be brought forward by the Scottish Government.

“The SFHA and its partners look forward to continuing to work constructively with the Scottish Government, the Local Government and Communities Committee and MSPs of all parties in the continued development of this vital piece of legislation.”

Sarah Baillie

MSPs have also called for further action by the Scottish Government in relation to equal rights of appeal and they want people to feel involved in the planning system at all stages.

Sarah Baillie, planning partner at international business law firm, Addleshaw Goddard LLP, said: “The Scottish Government has put forward a bill which many felt didn’t go far enough to be a step change and that it required further consultation as the detail was simply not there. The committee have agreed with the general principles of the bill, but have called for a series of changes and amendments to be made.

“A clear theme running through the report is the importance of empowering communities to have a meaningful say on the kind of place they want to live in. It is interesting that the committee consider that the current proposals are not enough to soothe frustrations felt by local people over the existing system, but make no explicit comment or reference regarding the development sector’s views.

“Developers typically commit many thousands of pounds on an application before it even comes before committee, and there are concerns about performance and delays on major applications which the Scottish Government were trying to address through planning performance monitoring, but the committee has suggested that this is removed.

“Whether rights of appeal in the planning system should be equalised or not has also been a longstanding issue on which there is a wide range of views. There is however, for the first time, notable political support for an “equalisation” agenda. Although, as far as I can see, there was no new evidence presented to the committee to support such a proposition. An independent review panel and the Scottish Government’s view is that a community right of appeal is unnecessary.

“This is a position fully supported by the development and investment sector, who have made it clear that such an approach will extend the development process even further, make smaller developments unviable and require more officer time in a period where resources are scarce. It could lead to delays, uncertainty, reduce early engagement and investment in housing and developments necessary to support people to live and work in their local area. Most worryingly, it could push investment outside Scotland where such rights don’t exist and also delay further the building of much-needed new homes.

“However, the committee of MSPs clearly considers that there is an imbalance in a system whereby the applicant can appeal decisions that have been taken in clear accordance with the development plan. It has suggested that planning appeals should only be allowed in certain circumstances and there should be rules to deter repeat appeals or applications. But often this has been necessary because development plans are out of date and do not reflect current market or economic conditions.

“The committee has urged the Scottish Government to look at this issue again and it will be interesting to see how they will or can respond to this.”

Marc Giles

Marc Giles, Ryden planning partner, added: “The committee is firmly of the view that there is an imbalance in the current planning system which the Bill does not address. The greatest concern to the development industry will be the continued pressure to implement an equal rights of appeal process, which may be seen as an opportunity for an anti-development campaign to delay delivery of development and particularly, essential housing proposals.  A further, longstanding concern has been the proposal for an infrastructure levy where, under current proposals, funds levied can be redistributed as Scottish Ministers see fit. The committee proposes these monies are spent locally.

“The removal of Strategic Development Plans, proposed as a means of streamlining the development plan process has also been addressed by the committee. Their removal is currently resisted on the basis that the proposed alternative approach would not contribute to a simplified or more effective planning system.

“In essence, what we are seeing from the committee is clear support for local decision making and significantly increased influence for local communities in a plan-led system, whilst raising serious questions around the future of the current system of appeal.”

The Stage 1 Report will now be reviewed by the Scottish Government. Amendments to the Bill will be reported in due course.

Building industry and planners set to give Planning Bill evidence

Holyrood’s local government and communities committee will continue to examine the Planning (Scotland) Bill tomorrow as it hears evidence from organisations from the country’s builders and planners.

Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning, Homes for Scotland, Jenny Hogan, deputy chief executive, Scottish Renewables, Gordon Nelson, director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland, Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Jonathan Fair, regional managing director – Scotland, McCarthy and Stone will all give evidence to the committee as the proposed Bill is put to the test.

MSPs will then hear from Kate Houghton, policy and practice officer, RTPI Scotland, Malcolm Fraser, consultant architect, Professor Cliff Hague, emeritus professor of planning and spatial development, Heriot-Watt University and Stuart Tait, manager, and Dorothy McDonald, assistant manager, Clydeplan.

Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “The entire purpose of these proposed changes is to strengthen the planning system and boost its contribution to inclusive growth, housing and infrastructure in Scotland.

“The Bill also aims to empower people to have their say on their places more than ever before, so that communities can influence development plans in their local areas.

“Our Committee now wants to find out whether the Bill will deliver an improved planning system and if so, should any improvements and changes be made to the Bill so that Scotland can develop a world-class approach to planning its cities, towns and rural areas in the future.”

A link to the papers is available here and you can watch the sessions online tomorrow via www.scottishparliament.tv.

Henry McLeish heads new campaign to help influence new Planning Bill

Scottish Alliance for People and PlacesAn alliance of ten organisations from the planning and placemaking sector in Scotland has launched a new campaign to help influence new planning guidelines ahead of the upcoming Planning Bill.

The Scottish Alliance for People and Places, which includes RTPI Scotland and RICS Scotland, has come together to help deliver a “more inclusive, collaborative and innovative” planning system when the Bill is introduced to Holyrood later this year.

It will promote the need for a planning system that “inspires and empowers civic participation, recognises the positive force that quality economic development can play in creating a more equal society, and is built on fostering strong relationships through consensus and collaboration”. It aims to put forward a compelling argument for change and develop constructive ideas for how to realise that change by influencing MSPs, Minister and officials.

The Alliance is chaired by former First Minister and town planner Rt Hon Henry McLeish. Its members are:

  • PAS (Planning Aid for Scotland)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland
  • Paths for All
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
  • Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland
  • Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Scottish Mediation Network
  • Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland

Speaking at the launch of the Alliance, RTPI Scotland director, Craig McLaren, said: “The planning bill is an opportunity to create a planning system that allows everyone to help shape the places they live in. RTPI Scotland looks forward to working with partners in the Alliance to help make this a reality.”

Former First Minister Henry McLeish added: “We want to work with the Scottish Government and Parliament to present an ambitious vision for a refreshed and revitalised planning system in Scotland that plans and delivers the quality economic and social development our country needs, but through collaboration and dialogue.

“Over the coming months, we will harness the experience and expertise of our members to offer constructive policy solutions that we believe can make this type transformational cultural change a reality.”

Draft energy strategy outlines 2030 renewables target

solar-panel-array-stock home energyAn integrated energy roadmap which proposes that half of all Scotland’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2030 has been unveiled by the Scottish Government.

Published yesterday, the draft Scottish Energy Strategy sets out a vision for 2050 for Scotland to have a modern, integrated energy system that delivers reliable, low carbon energy at affordable prices to consumers in all parts of Scotland.

Announcing the publication, minister for business, innovation and energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said the Strategy will build upon the existing economic strengths of the energy sector in Scotland, while protecting energy security and setting out the government’s approach to tackling fuel poverty.

The vision will be supported next month when Holyrood will announce details of up to £50 million in funding to be awarded to 13 projects across Scotland, which will demonstrate low carbon or renewable electricity, heating or storage solutions.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “The decisions we make about Scotland’s energy future are among the most important choices we face as a society. Safe, reliable and affordable energy underpins the continued growth of the Scottish economy, and safeguards the delivery of key services upon which individuals and communities depend. Achieving our vision is also crucial to efforts to tackle fuel poverty and to preventing the damaging effects of climate change, as part of the global community’s fight to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or less.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has welcomed the publication but has called for the strategy to include greater emphasis on increasing the energy efficiency of homes.

David Stewart, SFHA policy lead, said increasing energy efficiency of homes is the most effective method of reducing carbon emissions.

He added: “The SFHA welcomes the publication of the draft Scottish Energy Strategy and its ambition to provide a coherent roadmap to a low carbon energy system in Scotland by 2050. We are also pleased to see the commitment to increase the use of renewable energy to meet domestic supply needs.

“However, we would like the Energy Strategy to acknowledge that the most effective method of reducing carbon emissions is by reducing the need for energy use in the first instance – and this can be done by increasing the energy efficiency of homes. We therefore call on the Scottish Government to put this at the heart of the strategy – not only is increasing home energy efficiency the most cost effective way to lower carbon emissions, but it reduces fuel poverty and creates jobs and training through insulating and retrofitting our existing homes.

“With an ambition to move from fossil fuels to renewable sources, it is vital that we invest in energy efficiency to insulate households against the effects of likely increased prices as we move from gas to renewable heat. We believe that this should be achieved through a long-term investment programme and by setting minimum energy efficiency standards for all of Scotland’s homes.”

WWF Scotland said the new Strategy provides a powerful signal about Scotland’s new energy future.

Welcoming the renewable energy target, Gina Hanrahan, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to see many of our ideas brought forward in this strategy, especially a new target to secure half of all Scotland’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. The new all energy target sends a strong message to business and industry, both here and globally, that Scotland plans to build on its amazing progress on renewable electricity in the heat and transport sectors.

“A transformation in how we heat our homes and offices, how we travel to work and school, and how we power our industries will generate many social and economic benefits.  Research shows that generating half of our energy from renewables by 2030 is both necessary and achievable. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to make sure that policies are in place to deliver on this target, which enjoys strong cross-party and public support.”

On proposals for Scotland’s new energy efficiency programme, Hanrahan said: “The new information fails to put enough meat on the bones of the Scottish Government’s commitment to transform the energy efficiency of existing homes. With 1.5million cold homes in Scotland, these proposals are too slow and underfunded, especially when greater investment could create up to 9,000 jobs across the country.  Ministers must set an objective for a new programme supporting all homes to reach at least an Energy Performance Certificate ‘C’ band by 2025.”

On a consultation on extensive new proposals to expand district heating, Hanrahan added: “Heat networks will need to expand in Scotland’s major cities to help tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions from heating our buildings and industry. The Scottish Government’s welcome proposals for local heat plans and district heating regulation should help bring affordable, low carbon heat to many more people in cities and towns across the country.”

As well as setting ambitious targets, the draft Scottish Energy Strategy also seeks views on a number of issues including:

  • A renewed focus on energy efficiency – taking a targeted approach to reducing demand and transforming homes and businesses across Scotland, including through investment in district heating;
  • Establishment of a Scottish Government owned energy company and its potential remit in meeting Scotland’s energy needs; and
  • The potential role for renewable energy bonds.

Mr Wheelhouse added: “I am very keen to ensure this strategy, which helps to underpin key aspects of the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan which was published last week, is infused with the thoughts and views of people from right across Scotland and I would strongly encourage everyone to participate.”

The consultation on the draft Energy Strategy will run until May 30.

New booklet launched to showcase community-driven place making

New homes in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran by Irvine Housing Association

New homes in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran by Irvine Housing Association

Four housing and community organisations have collaborated to produce a booklet showcasing six examples of community led place making.

Produced by Development Trusts Association Scotland, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and Scottish Federation of Housing Association, the booklet was produced as an action under the Joint Housing Delivery Plan – a collaboration between the Scottish Government and partner bodies from the housing and related sectors.

Five of the six case studies centre around new housing and one around a community woodland area:

  • New homes in Ardgeal, Kincraig
  • New homes in Helmsdale, Sutherland
  • New homes in Gairloch, Wester Ross
  • Regeneration of Laurieston, Gorbals
  • Regeneration of Castlemilk Park, Glasgow
  • New homes in Lamlash, Isle of Arran

In the booklet’s foreword, the four bodies say that on top of the long-established role of community led development by local housing associations, current policy direction – including community empowerment and land reform legislation – has been hugely encouraging for people who want to influence how their community develops as a place to live.

But, they say, there can sometimes be barriers too:

“Community empowerment tools have been put in place, but so too have many other policies which sit outside the direct community development sphere, and they have the potential to create a contradiction which can conflict with and constrain community-led place making within the planning system.

“If the relationship and level of priority between all the relevant policies are unclear, community led or community supported development will suffer and risk being lost in bureaucracy.”

Looking to the future the document strikes a positive note, saying that if policies are pro-development and have sufficient priority within the planning system, sitting alongside a strong support network that works effectively with planners and policy makers, Scotland can create the stronger and more viable communities which are essential for the country’s future prosperity.

See the document here.

New £10m pilot loan scheme to increase energy efficiency and repair homes

Home building stockMore people will be able to make their homes warm and water-tight through a new £10 million fund.

The pilot scheme in Glasgow, Argyll and Bute and Perthshire will provide equity loans of up to £40,000 to home owners on low incomes to help them make essential repairs to leaking roofs and building structures. This work is often necessary before energy efficiency measures like solid-wall insulation can be installed.

The funding can be used either as a single equity loan or with other existing Scottish Government grants to fund more expensive measures like solid wall insulation or a package of energy efficiency works.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart announced the pilot ahead of his attendance at the launch of Under One Roof, a new website which will provide free and impartial advice to private flat owners and help them understand their obligations when it comes to property and shared spaces.

He said: “Making sure everyone has access to a warm and affordable home is a priority for this government which is why we have committed half a billion pounds over the next four years, meaning over £1 billion by 2021, to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency.

“We know leaking roofs and poor building structures can drive up energy bills and make them more difficult to heat, but for low income households they can often be too costly to repair.

“This £10m scheme will provide households with loans to carry out essential repair work and install energy efficiency improvements.

“This will help us make homes warmer and easier to heat, with our record investment already resulting in two fifths of Scottish homes now being in the top three energy efficiency ratings – an increase of 71 per cent since 2010.”

Mary Taylor, chief executive of SFHA, said: “We welcome the announcement of the equity loan scheme. It is extremely important that we invest in the energy efficiency of existing homes to provide affordable warmth and reduce carbon emissions. It is also important that we invest in existing buildings and keep them in a good state of repair.

“We know from our members that it can be a challenge for housing associations to organise repairs and energy efficiency measures in mixed ownership properties, especially tenements with other owners in the stair. This new equity loan fund, coupled with the Under One Roof website, which the SFHA helped sponsor, provide potential solutions to allow owners to fund repairs and energy efficiency improvements.”

Lori McElroy, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance, added: “We know that households across Scotland want warmer homes, homes that are also cheaper to heat and less damp to live in. For many, the key obstacle to getting the work done is the upfront cost, even if insulation can pay for itself many times over. This pilot ‘equity loan’ scheme is therefore a key part of the solution, and can help the Scottish Government to deliver on their commitment to make energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority.

“If energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes like this can help to raise the vast majority of Scottish homes to an Energy Performance Certificate band C by 2025 we can ensure that cold and draughty homes no longer condemn Scots to fuel poverty.

“It’s great news that repairs are included – so things like roof repairs are included as part of an overall energy efficiency upgrade. Without this scheme, those repair costs would be a huge barrier to being able to afford a warm and cosy home. This pilot across rural and urban Scotland should help Ministers to ensure that their proposed loan fund runs as effectively as possible when it opens for business.

“Better insulation for our homes helps to tackle some of Scotland’s most urgent issues: from cutting our energy bills, improving health and quality of life, reducing emissions and pressure on energy supply to boosting employment. Given the diverse and sometimes remote housing stock that this country has inherited, achieving these vital objectives will require long-term commitment from the Government and an ability both to innovate and to investigate best practice elsewhere. A mix of solutions will be required including grants, loans, incentives and regulation. From the perspective of the Existing Homes Alliance, today’s announcement is a significant step in the right direction.”

David Bookbinder, director of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, said: “It has always been clear that equity loan schemes offered by commercial companies won’t be attractive to owners. We therefore warmly welcome this Scottish Government pilot initiative which offers a really good deal for owners who have some equity in their property but can’t afford to pay regular loan interest.

“As well as facing the challenge of dealing with energy efficiency and other works in mixed tenure blocks, a number of community based housing associations would also like to work with their local council to tackle fully private tenements which are in poor condition and an increasing blight on the area. Widening the range of financial options for owners can only increase the chances of making this happen.

“GWSF very much hopes that the scheme can be expanded across Scotland after this pilot in three council areas.”

Homes for Scotland ‘hugely disappointed’ at housing supply decline

Karen Campbell

Karen Campbell

Industry body Homes for Scotland said the supply of housing in Scotland continues to lag behind increasing demand after new figures revealed a fall in housing completions.

Yesterday’s publication of the Housing Statistics for Scotland 2016: Key Trends and the Quarterly Housing Statistics revealed 15,854 residential properties were completed in 2015/16, a two per cent fall on the previous year.

Karen Campbell, director of policy at Homes for Scotland, said: “On this important day of discussion on our country’s housing crisis, the Scottish Government has pointed to the ‘stability’ in new supply when figures actually show a decline.

“The simple fact is that whilst Scotland’s population has increased to its highest ever level, the supply of housing continues to lag ever further behind.

“This is hugely disappointing news for all those looking for a new home and will place further pressure on rents and house prices as demand continues to grow.

“We want to see a return to pre-recession levels of building around 25,000 new homes a year by the end of this parliament which requires a year-on-year increase of at least ten per cent.  We all have a valuable part to play in achieving this if we are to meet the diverse needs, aspirations and life journeys of all those living in Scotland.”

Releasing the statistics yesterday before MSPs debated the levels of investment for more homes at Holyrood, housing minister Kevin Stewart said the figures show good early progress towards delivering the Scottish Government’s target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said that while it is pleased the Scottish Government has reinstated “a more realistic rate of investment”, the publications highlight that only stability in housing investment will increase the supply of affordable homes.

According to the figures, 2,320 housing association new builds were completed in 2015/16, the lowest level of completions since 1999/00.  

Housing association rate of new build completions and new build approvals since 2008–09

Housing association rate of new build completions and new build approvals since 2008–09

Looking forward, completions will improve, as the number of new build approvals in 2015/16 was 2,906, an increase of around 10 per cent on 2014/15. Future figures for completions should show further increases as more projects are being approved now.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA, said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the importance of stable investment in housing. The lowest level of housing association completions in almost 15 years shows the damage that was done when the volume and rate of investment were drastically reduced by the Scottish Government some years ago.

“SFHA is pleased the Scottish Government listened to our case for investment and reinstated a more realistic rate of investment in affordable housing to meet the need of 50,000 households across Scotland. A stable programme of investment – in terms of total budget available and per unit rate of investment – is the only way to increase affordable housing supply.”

FMB Scotland warns there is ‘little to celebrate’ within Scottish housing statistics

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

New housebuilding figures for Scotland underline the severity of the challenge that the Scottish Government faces if it is to tackle the country’s housing crisis, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland has warned.

Figures published yesterday revealed that 33,490 affordable homes were delivered over the last Parliamentary term, exceeding the government’s 30,000 homes objective by more than 10 per cent.

However Gordon Nelson, director for FMB Scotland, said that despite the Scottish Government’s “favourable spin” on the statistics, “scratch the surface and there’s little to celebrate”.

He added: “According to these latest figures, total housing completions increased by 3 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014. Although this is indeed an increase, when you compare it to the growth in house building south of the border in England, which increased by 21 per cent over the same period, it pales by comparison.

“These figures demonstrate how far we are from building the number of homes that the country needs to tackle the housing crisis. House building output for 2015 is 9,000 units lower than it was in 2007, despite demand for homes soaring. That the number of housing starts in Scotland for the final quarter of 2015 was 12 per cent lower than in 2014 is particularly concerning. In light of this, the government’s ambition to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2020 may be laudable, but risks losing sight of the wider picture, at a time where there is pressing need for more homes all of tenures. The Scottish Government has celebrated today’s figures based solely on exceeding their affordable housing figures, which suggests that they do not grasp the severity of the wider house building challenge.”

Mr Nelson added: “Now is the time for the Scottish Government to concentrate on what it can do to facilitate a renaissance in house building. There are thousands of families and individuals for whom home ownership is becoming an ever-more distant dream. For the high proportion of people who aren’t eligible for social housing, the spiralling costs of privately rented accommodation will pinch hard. It’s imperative that a real effort is made to tackle an erratic planning system that stymies development and to unblock a financial system in which major banks are reluctant to lend to SME house builders which are crucial to getting Scotland building again.”

Industry body Homes for Scotland said the headline statistics mask a decline in vital private sector output for 2015.

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said: “Whilst we welcome any increase in housing supply, these figures also indicate that both private sector-led starts and completions are down on the previous quarter and on the previous year. With Scotland’s growing population having a diverse range of housing needs and aspirations, it is crucial that we recognise that affordable housing delivery, by its very nature, only meets the needs and demands of a certain proportion of the population.

“A healthy private sector is also essential given the contribution it makes to providing homes for people at other stages of their housing journey, creating a vibrant housing ladder.   So we must see an increase in supply across all tenures if we are to realise the far-reaching and full benefits that home building can bring all those living in our communities –  be that social, economic or environmental.

“We therefore look forward to discussions with the new Cabinet Secretary and Minister responsible for housing on how this can be achieved.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has welcomed the fact that the affordable homes target has been exceeded but warned that unresolved issues may impair future progress.

Mary Taylor, SFHA chief executive, said: “We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has met and exceeded its affordable homes target. Housing targets represent more than just an amount of new builds – people’s life chances, health and wellbeing will have been improved by securing a high quality, energy efficient, affordable home.

“Scotland desperately needs more affordable homes in order to solve its current housing crisis, and we acknowledge the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase the supply of homes by setting a new target of delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed by more than £3 billion, over the lifetime of this Parliament.

“However, we are aware that other factors impact on the sector’s ability to deliver increased numbers of affordable housing. The key issues are planning, infrastructure, availability of affordable land and access to skilled workers. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government, the housing association sector, local authorities and other partners to find solutions to these challenges.”

Housing bodies unite in joint call to tackle homes shortage

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

Scotland’s key housing and professional bodies today called for politicians to tackle the country’s housing crisis by supporting an increase in the supply of warm, sustainable homes that meet a diverse set of needs and aspirations.

In an open letter ahead of next week’s parliamentary election, the organisations highlighted that overall levels of production have slumped by 40 per cent since 2007, with demand amongst the country’s growing population continuing to outstrip supply.

The letter reads: “Scotland still desperately requires more homes: homes that are warm, sustainable, well-designed and energy-efficient; homes that contribute to better health and education outcomes; homes that meet need and aspiration; homes that are affordable and homes that support dynamic, vibrant and sustainable communities. With analysis suggesting that every new home supports four jobs and housing making a positive impact on so many different policy areas, the return on investment in this sector is considerable.”

The letter signatories comprise Homes for Scotland, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Shelter Scotland, the Federation of Master Builders, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Royal Incorporation of Chartered Surveyors, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Scottish Building Federation.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “As individual organisations, we may have different priorities but we are united in one simple request – that our politicians take whatever action is necessary to end the housing pressure affecting so many of  those living in Scotland.”

Government unveils extra £20m for energy efficiency and reaffirms £4.5bn infrastructure commitment

John Swinney

John Swinney

The Scottish Government has announced an extra £20 million to address fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

Setting out the Scottish Government’s budget to parliament yesterday, deputy first minister John Swinney said the plans respond to Scotland’s improving economic conditions and would enhance economic growth, tackle inequalities and continue to protect and invest in Scotland’s public services.

Key additions to the original budget included an increased investment in energy efficiency of £20m as well as £3.9m to support cycling and walking infrastructure.

£6m is earmarked for home energy efficiency programmes that will support measures such as solid wall, cavity or loft insulation while an additional £14m will be invested in low cost home energy efficiency loans available to households in the private sector to supplement existing grant schemes to help install energy efficiency measures.

The government also reaffirmed its commitment to secure £4.5 billion of infrastructure investment in 2015-16, to support £330m of further capital investment in its Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme through NPD funding and to provide £140m to deliver two new college campuses through the NPD pipeline.

The additional funding will take the Scottish Government’s investment to tackle fuel poverty and boost energy efficiency to £114m in 2015/16 and to around £300m over the three years 2013/14 to 2015/16.

Details of the loan schemes will be announced in due course.

It follows a report, released in late 2014, that found fuel poverty levels had reached 39 per cent in Scotland.

Social justice secretary Alex Neil said the funding demonstrates the government’s determination to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency head on.

He said: “Fuel costs have risen six times faster than incomes since 2003. In 2013, fuel prices rose by seven per cent, pushing more people into fuel poverty. The fact that this is happening in an energy-rich country is outrageous.

“Given the recent reductions in energy costs, all energy providers must implement price cuts now and not wait until the Spring.

“This additional funding means we have allocated over half a billion pounds since 2009 to make Scotland’s homes more energy efficient.

“Over 700,000 households have benefited from measures like new boilers or insulation targeted in particular at those in or at risk of fuel poverty.”

The announcement has been warmly received though calls remain for even more action to tackle “the scourge of fuel poverty”.

David Ogilvie, head of policy and public affairs at CIH Scotland, said: “We welcome this extra funding for energy efficiency and the recognition that a warm, safe home should not be the privilege of a few but the normal standard of healthy living across Scotland.

“However, much more still needs to be done to tackle the scourge of fuel poverty – and investing in energy efficiency can help the Scottish Government make significant savings to other budgets such as health and social care in the longer term.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said the money is a step in the right direction.

David Stewart, SFHA policy manager, said: “News of the additional £20m is positive, and the SFHA welcomes this funding which is a step in the right direction. Investing in domestic energy efficiency is vital if Scotland is to start to address the scourge of fuel poverty and to work towards meeting our ambitious climate change targets.

“We know from research that investing in the energy efficiency of the nation’s homes is the most effective way to reduce fuel poverty, address climate change and create jobs and training opportunities. We, therefore, welcome the news of this increased investment, which the SFHA has consistently called for.”

Mr Stewart added: “However, we note that (Mr Swinney) acknowledged that the £114m will not be sufficient to end fuel poverty or to ensure that Scotland’s climate change targets are met. We, therefore, hope that this investment sees the start of energy efficiency being treated as a key priority for investment in order to create jobs, cut fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions.

“Housing associations and co-operatives, with their groupings of housing and their expertise in capital investment, are ideally placed to lead on programmes to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes.”

For the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, energy efficiency has a very important influence in eradicating and reducing the risk of fuel poverty in the future by creating homes that are warm, affordable to heat, and low carbon.

Alan Ferguson, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland said the investment will save money for ordinary households struggling to pay their bills, but also for the NHS, by reducing the health impacts associated with cold and damp homes. Furthermore, he said the extra funding will help create and maintain jobs in the insulation industry, giving them more certainty and stability to plan their investments.

Alan Ferguson said: “We are pleased to see additional funding put towards energy efficiency. This investment is very welcome indeed given the recent Scottish Government figures which show fuel poverty is on the rise – up to a startling 39 per cent of Scottish households (940,000). Scotland has a target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, and every effort should be made to turn round the current backwards trend and eliminate this unnecessary burden on the Scottish people.”

He added: “The additional funding will go part way towards plugging the gap left by reductions to the UK government’s Energy Company Obligation funding, which the Scottish Government predicted would mean a fall in energy efficiency investment for Scotland by £50m per year. However, we firmly believe still more needs to be done to compensate for these losses, and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to step up the pace and scale of change to the energy performance of Scotland’s homes in the coming year. This would include making energy efficiency a major national infrastructure priority – a vision of warm and cosy homes that everyone can afford to enjoy.”

Homes for Scotland said the money is key to meeting the budget’s aims of tackling social inequality caused by fuel poverty but the trade body still waiting on full details of £125m supply funding announced last October.

Chief executive Philip Hogg said: “New homes built to today’s standards have already reduced their carbon emissions by over 70 per cent on 1990 levels and are extremely energy efficient, offering potential significant savings on running costs.

“With even tougher standards effective from October this year, the home building industry clearly has a fundamental role to play in tackling fuel poverty, addressing climate change and improving the energy efficiency of Scotland’s housing stock.

“Our members stand ready to work with the Scottish Government to help deliver enough warm, sustainable homes for everyone and achieve a more equitable society but, with housing production still languishing at its lowest level for 70 years, the industry still needs significant support and we still await full details of how the outstanding balance of the £125m to support housing supply that was announced last October will be allocated.”