Homes for Scotland ‘extremely disappointed’ with planning reform proposals

Tammy Adams
Tammy Adams

Homes for Scotland has said it is “extremely disappointed” with the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes in planning policy which it argues will only “exacerbate Scotland’s chronic housing shortfall”.

Expressing the frustration of its 200 member companies in its response to the “Places, People and Planning” consultation White Paper, the trade body criticised a suggested hike in planning fees adding that while the detail required to deliver new home did not match the rhetoric.

Director of planning Tammy Adams said: “With home builders telling us it has never been harder to open new sites and get much needed homes out of the ground, and having consistently relayed our concerns to the Scottish Government over some time, we are extremely disappointed with the package of proposals in the recent consultation paper. Whilst the words framing the need to deliver more homes are there, the detail required to achieve this is not.

“Homes for Scotland has engaged positively throughout the planning review process and we will continue to press for the current system to be tightened up to ensure maximum efforts are made, across all of Scotland’s planning authorities, to focus on policy and practice which actively enables the delivery of new homes.

“Despite an improving market, the number of new homes being built is in decline and, as existing sites are completed, home builders are increasingly struggling to secure planning permission for new ones. This situation will only exacerbate Scotland’s chronic housing shortfall, yet the planning review proposals contain no clear and targeted measures to address the real issues with development plans and development management processes.

“As we move towards the Planning Bill, due later this year, it is less clear than ever how the Scottish Government intends to find planning system solutions to increase the number of new homes being built.

“The focus on home building that was clear when the planning review was first launched in 2015 has been lost, with too many radical reforms sought across potentially conflicting agendas.

“Coupled with recent proposals to significantly increase planning fees for major developments, and set in the context of very slow planning decision times (particularly for major housing developments), the political commitment to meeting Scotland’s housing needs across all tenures is not as strong as we had hoped.

“Key to the success of any planning reform will be the Scottish Government’s ability to lead local public and political opinion on the benefits of building the new homes our country needs. ‘How will this change assist the delivery of more new homes?’ should be a constant question as the chosen reforms take shape. As ever, Homes for Scotland stands ready to play a full and constructive role.”

Last month, the Scottish Property Federation hailed the consultation in relation to fees and resources for major planning applications as a major turning point for local authority planning services around the country.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said access to affordable land was the biggest challenge to providing quality social housing while CIH Scotland said that the changing needs of an ageing population and other important demographic trends will also need to be addressed.

The John Muir Trust said that while the package of reforms includes proposals of merit, the Trust is concerned over several key points and has called for greater recognition for the environment.

Head of policy, Helen McDade, said: “While we welcome the ambition to have local place plans and early community engagement with applications, we believe that some form of Equal Rights of Appeal is essential to redress what is a serious imbalance in the planning system in favour of developers.

“There can be no environmental or social justice until communities and environmental charities have the same rights as developers.

“We are also disappointed that there is virtually no mention in the consultation paper on the need to consider the wider environment.

“The Trust would like to see Environmental Impact Assessments still paid for by the developer, but commissioned by the local authority, or by an appropriate public body such as Scottish Natural Heritage where for example there may be a significant impact on the natural environment.”

Kevin Stewart, Scottish minister for local government and housing, said: “There was a high level of engagement to our consultation from across Scotland and from people who are passionate about making the planning system work for everyone. The consultation outlined at a number of issues in addition to delivery of housing and we will now analyse those responses.

“We look forward to seeing the results, particularly on how we can support a new approach to improving performance. In the meantime, we remain completely committed to delivering the homes that Scotland needs.”

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