Savills calls for ‘significant changes’ in planning system to meet housing requirement

SavillsThe time periods proposed by the Scottish Government for the new version of Local Development Plans and the provision of homes in rural areas are still areas of concern despite some positives moves to change the planning system, Savills has warned.

The property organisation has broadly welcomed the government’s swift announcement of planning reform recommendations which came barely a month after receiving an independent review of the system.

The response roundly welcomes the panel’s findings and “strongly support(s) the six outcomes proposed by the review”. The government goes further and sets a challenging timescale to deliver these reforms. They commit to working with key stakeholders over summer and autumn 2016 producing a White paper in autumn/winter 2016, with a Planning Bill due to be brought forward in 2017.

Debbie Mackay, a planning director with Savills, said the emphasis on action and delivery was “very positive”.

He added: “The government appears determined to keep momentum on the reform agenda. There are many aspects which are welcome, such as the focus on infrastructure delivery, and long term strategies for school building, which brings education departments to the table at as early a stage as possible.”

However, Mackay said there are areas of concern such as the time-periods provided for the new version of Local Development Plans.

He said: “While the current system is far from perfect, many local planning authorities have managed to achieve regular updates on their plans allowing regular input and flexibility. The 10 year plan periods proposed, with a fore-shortened 2 year preparation period could be very unwieldy, creating inflexible policies and allocations. It is not clear what problem this proposal is seeking to solve.

“The immediate actions and challenging timescales the government commit themselves to should give real pace to the reforms which are badly needed. Speed and urgency are welcome, however they must also be balanced with inclusion of actions which will create a step-change in provision of housing for rural and island communities where the lack of housing can create a spiral of decline in some of our most fragile areas.

“The commitment to establish Working Groups with broad communities of interest represented to develop the details of these reforms should provide the opportunity to address many of these issues.

“The timetable outlined is clearly a recognition by Government that, despite brave reforms to the system over a sustained period since 2006, the planning system is still facing considerable challenges. Housing and infrastructure delivery continue to lag well behind need and demand.”

Savills head of research in Scotland, Faisal Choudhry, added: “Based on our analysis of housing need assessment, Scotland requires 32,000 houses to be built annually. In 2015 only 15,954 houses were built of which 75 per cent were delivered by the private sector. To meet the overall housing requirement, significant changes are needed and the planning system together with a commitment from Scottish Government to support housing delivery for all tenures, along with infrastructure investment.”

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