Planning System Must Be Reformed

07 Nov 2004

The Planning System is inflicting serious economic, social and environmental costs on Scotland and should be reformed, says a new paper by the Policy Institute, a Scottish think-tank.

The report, The Planning Famine, by Professor Sir Donald Mackay, says that “the housing market has failed to respond adequately to increased demand”. UK house price rises have been among the highest in the EU, while construction of new houses nearly the lowest.

Comparison of the housing markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh shows, for example, that “there has been a severe imbalance between the demand and supply of sites to construct family houses in Edinburgh”. This is a result of policies which are protecting unwanted greenbelt areas at the expense of urban parks and recreational space.

Meanwhile, by considering measures such as third party appeal, and full council tax on second homes, we are “going down another of our wrong turnings”.

Instead, Mackay suggests four steps to tackle the housing crisis. First, the Scottish Executive should conduct a “yearly analysis of whether a sufficient supply of sites is being provided to meet demand.” Second, it should “restore the presumption in favour economic development”.

Third, the Executive should “set clear target dates for the publication of all local and structure plans, with financial penalties for those who do not comply”.

Finally, the paper suggests that local authorities should receive council tax from newly built properties without it affecting their block grant. This would provide an incentive to encourage development, and offset the costs of doing so.