Scotland politics

New measures to speed up house building in Scotland

Housing Image copyright PA

Planning appeals for housing developments of more than 100 units are to be called in by Scottish ministers.

The decision is part of new measures to accelerate house building in line with a commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years.

A £50m grant and loan fund has also been set up to help with issues such as financing, infrastructure and planning.

The move has been criticised by the body which represents local authorities, Cosla.

It would mean the Scottish government could over-rule decisions made by local councils to reject larger housing schemes.

A Cosla spokesman said: "We need to re-boot our planning system not 'call in more applications'".

"We must restore public confidence in getting involved in planning, not continue a pattern of repositioning control nationally on the flawed premise of efficiency whilst in fact further diluting local democracy."

He added: "Whilst we welcome investment to address housing supply, local assessments tend to suggest the need for smaller more affordable homes, which reflect the needs of much of our communities.

"But maybe not the outcomes desired of the higher volume, larger capacity national house builders."

Responding to Cosla's concerns, a Scottish government spokesman said: "The outcome of the recalled appeals will be determined on a case by case basis; for each appeal, the reporter will make recommendations to Scottish ministers, and Scottish ministers may either accept or reject the reporter's recommendation, and they may either uphold or dismiss the appeal.

"So far only a handful of appeals have been recalled and overall ministerial involvement in planning cases will continue to be a very small proportion of the tens of thousands of cases dealt with by local authorities each year."

'Accelerate delivery'

The Scottish government has committed to delivering least 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years. Of those, 70% are to be for social rent.

Both grants and loans will also be given to help progress development at key housing sites.

It is hoped the money will speed up the rate at which private and affordable homes are being built. The Scottish government is also looking at ways of funding more mid-market rent developments.

Image copyright PA

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "The £50m infrastructure fund will help unblock sites that are strategically important to councils and that have the potential to accelerate the delivery of thousands of new homes across the country.

"To make that happen we will team up with public and private sector bodies to tackle complex development, financing, infrastructure and planning issues impeding housing supply.

He added: "We will also explore more innovative financing to build more homes for mid-market rent.

"We have listened to our partners and are putting in place measures to support the increase in the supply of homes across all tenures, support jobs in the construction industry, and encourage inclusive growth in the wider economy."

Tom Barclay, co-chair of the Joint Housing Policy delivery group, said: "This announcement is one of a series of actions that is signalling a step change in Scotland to prioritise the building of new homes. "

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