First Minister urged to reform city planning rules

NICOLA Sturgeon's new Scottish Government is today facing demands to speed up the planning process for housebuilding amid warnings of a 'chronic' homes shortage in the Capital.

Saturday, 7th May 2016, 10:29 am
Updated Saturday, 7th May 2016, 11:32 am
Developers are continuing to push the government for a faster and more streamlined system. Picture: TSPL

The calls come as the average property price in Edinburgh sits at around £232,000 and monthly rents approach £1000.

To ease the pressure, ministers recently announced they would call in planning appeals for schemes of more than 100 properties.

The move is part of a package of measures designed to accelerate construction in line with a commitment to build tens of thousands of affordable homes over the next five years.

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However, developers are continuing to push for a faster and more streamlined system.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, SNP member for Forth and Deputy Lord Provost, has also urged the government to consider planning reform.

He said: “I cannot tell them what to do, but I think that one of the things we at the council would be looking for is action to address to the chronic need for affordable housing in the city – that, for me, would be a priority.

“We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and we have a housing shortage, particularly at the lower end of the market in terms of house prices and the rental sector.

“I would hope that the government would be looking at the planning process to speed it up so that sites earmarked for affordable homes can be dealt with expeditiously.”

Cllr Cardownie’s call has received broad support, although industry figures said boosting provision of a range of housing types would be crucial.

Bosses at Homes for Scotland – which represents some 200 organisations delivering 95 per cent of new properties for sale – said Edinburgh’s crisis required a “multi-tenure” solution.

A spokeswoman said: “The single most effective way to address concerns about affordability is to significantly increase the supply of new homes of all tenures in order to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of our growing population and ensure we have the range and choice of homes necessary for each stage of people’s housing journeys.

“This is essential for the future success and well-being of our capital city.”

Opposition leaders said the homes issue would not be resolved without moves to tackle land “hoarding”.

Cllr Steve Burgess, Green housing spokesman, said: “In our manifesto for the parliamentary elections we set out ways of improving the supply of affordable housing and reducing the cost by tackling the main barrier – the way developers hoard land and try to sit on rising land values.

“So I believe the Scottish Government should give the council the power to buy land at existing use value.

“Another new power should require developers to use land once it has planning permission, or lose it via public auction. Finally, there should also be new powers to bring long-term empty homes back into use, either through sale or long term lease.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We urge all political parties to use the 12,000 target for new affordable homes as a benchmark for their ambitions to bring real hope to the thousands of people in Scotland without a suitable or affordable home while also delivering a major boost to jobs and the economy.”

The Westminster government recently published proposals, now out for consultation, which are aimed at introducing competition in handling planning applications and increasing choice for firms looking to bring forward projects.

London ministers said the blueprints, which include a fast-track application process, would help tackle the lack of incentive for councils to improve their planning service, and avoid long delays and frustrations for housebuilders.