Planning Bill provides ‘crucial chance’ to ease housing crisis

Tammy Swift-Adams

As Scotland continues to wrestle with how to solve its housing crisis, Homes for Scotland has outlined its thinking on the proposals in the Planning Bill currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament.

Setting out its position in written evidence to the local government and communities committee, the organisation, which represents the providers of the majority of the country’s new homes, believes that the Bill could deliver the balance the planning system requires as it focuses on improving collaboration rather than introducing potential areas for additional conflict.

Given the planning reform agenda was instigated by the need for more homes across Scotland, director of planning Tammy Swift-Adams said: “Public trust in the planning system must be improved to increase receptiveness to home building, so we welcome the emphasis being placed on better collaboration early in the plan-making stage. Accordingly, the Evidence Reports which planning authorities will be required to present will have to demonstrate genuine engagement between planning authorities, community representatives and housing providers. The introduction of Local Place Plans could also provide an opportunity for communities to show what role they can play in articulating how Scotland’s development needs should be met.

“Any changes should be fully thought through. For example, an Infrastructure Levy may prove a useful future tool for securing the necessary infrastructure (such as roads and schools) associated with new development in a more transparent way than at present, but the detailed thinking on this is not at an advanced enough stage. It would therefore be more logical to remove the Infrastructure Levy proposals from the Bill and set these aside for separate work.”

Swift-Adams also highlighted that there is as much to be achieved outside of the legislative framework as within it.

She added: “In light of this week’s quarterly statistics showing a good improvement on planning decision times for major housing applications achieved within the current system, we would hope to see ongoing improvements. If we can get planning reform right, good performance should be the norm and communities and home builders alike should have better trust in the process that shapes our country’s development.”

Referring to the debate on whether third party rights of appeal should be introduced, Swift-Adams said: “Like many others, we strongly feel this would be a negative move resulting in delays to the delivery of new homes. The focus should remain on finding new opportunities for collaboration rather than conflict.

“Having seen an increase of ten per cent in new NHBC housing registrations in Scotland last year, we must keep this momentum going at a time when people are crying out for new homes.”

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