Paul Kelly: Let’s talk about planning for new homes in the West of Scotland
Paul Kelly argues that more collaboration and regular communications with planning authorities is required to get projects moving.
It’s no surprise to me that the number of affordable homes started in the last quarter has decreased significantly from the same period last year. For private sale the picture fared better, demonstrating a commitment to respond to demand. But we need action now to supply many more homes both private and social right across Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
A key frustration for me is the lengthy and cumbersome planning process and timescales. There is a big opportunity for local authorities and private developers to work together more closely to supply much needed homes for both private home-owners and housing association tenants.
I think empathy and mutual understanding between planners and developers would go a long way to make real progress and support the chronic lack of homes.
At AS Homes (Scotland) we support housing associations by building affordable homes that meet a community need. At Briar Homes we build new developments for private sale. Both businesses provide homes for families, couples and single households in different situations and life stages. We provide employment and support skills apprenticeship programmes for young people getting into construction. We also support a further supply chain of suppliers and contractors.
We currently have eight applications across different councils stuck in the planning process. We can wait two or three months to get a pre-application discussion and over a year to receive a final planning decision. As a private business our commercial motivation is different to a local authority. For me, like many others, time is money and to keep the wheels turning, there has to be a quicker return on our investment. However, contrary to popular belief, developers are working with tight margins in a market of rising costs and overheads. The longer we are forced to wait, the bigger the exposure to rising construction costs, materials and labour and missing crucial legal and funding deadlines. As a result of delays, we have experienced several situations where some contracts have had to be renegotiated as costs have risen on a single development by up to 25% in less than a year.
I understand that some of the backlog is due to the pandemic and planning departments are under-resourced. However, we are all recovering and re-skilling and the lack of opportunity to have contact either by phone, online or in-person means it is hard to have a meaningful discussion and progress projects.
I would like to see planners engage with us at a much earlier stage in the process and this would help better outcomes much quicker and faster, bypassing obstacles. We need a better resourced and delivery focussed planning system that takes on board the commercial realities of the market. We both have a crucial role to play to help create a supply for the housing market to meet demand.
- Paul Kelly is managing director of AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd and Briar Homes Ltd