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RTPI Scotland welcomes Scottish Housing Commission report

31 July 2014

Craig McLaren, RTPI Scotland Director, said: “We are pleased that the Commission has recognised the important role that planning can play in delivering new housing. The report supports and complements many of the recommendations set out in the RTPI Policy Paper Delivering Large Scale Housing: Unlocking Schemes and Sites to Help Meet the UK's Housing Needs published last year. In particular, emphasised the need to explore how special delivery processes may assist the delivery of nationally significant housing developments, and an effective Scottish Land Delivery Agency could prove to be a game changer in delivering more houses and ensuring that they are sustainable and well designed”

RTPI Scotland is also pleased that the Commission has highlighted the need for planners to be part of corporate management teams in local authorities to provide the “spatial, inter-sectoral thinking” that joins up decision making on investment, infrastructure, economic development and housing. This echoes findings of the RTPI housing report that said Leaders, Chief Executives and Chief Planning Officers need to use planners’ skills more broadly in the design and delivery of corporate plans for growth.

The Institute welcomes the Commission’s support for the National Planning Framework and role it can play in helping develop housing. Delivering new housing needs clear national targets and support from the National Planning Framework  to allow for ambitious and long term approaches that establish long term locations for growth.  It also needs such plans to lead infrastructure investment programmes not respond to them. 

Specific recommendations in the report

  • Recommendation 1: We welcome the establishment of a National Housing Observatory. Priority has to be given to developing a transparent and robust evidence base as it is essential in establishing the needs, demands, challenges and opportunities in planning for housing. An observatory will also provide an opportunity to join up research an analysis across sectors, organisations and geographies. RTPI Scotland will be pleased to engage with this.
  • Recommendation 2: We agree that focussed dialogue and debate is required at the national level to ensure that politicians are fully aware of the issues, evidence and possible approaches that can be taken to housing. An annual State of the National Housing Market Report would help this.
  • Recommendation 3: We agree that housing – and planning – issues would benefit from being the direct responsibility of a Cabinet Secretary. This is important given that the Commission’s views on the need for a more corporate and strategic approach to planning for housing.        
  • Recommendation 7: We welcome the Commission’s views on the need to continue to invest in skills development for planners, building on the progress made in developing culture change across the profession. The Institute is already committed to supporting our Members to enhance their skills.
  • Recommendation 8: We support the move to local authorities being able to demonstrate a 10 year effective land supply as standard. Delivering new housing needs clear national targets and support from the National Planning Framework  to allow for ambitious and long term approaches that establish long term locations for growth including settlement expansion, new communities and new towns.  It also needs such plans to lead infrastructure investment programmes not respond to them.  This will only work successfully if local authorities, housebuilders, landowners and communities are able to work together transparently to identify sites.  However housing land allocations are only one part of the story and that they need to be accompanied by proper investment in infrastructure, facilities, amenities, community building and placemaking.
  • Recommendation 9: We are keen to ensure that the HNDA assessment process is effective and allows for a realistic but ambitious quantification of housing need and demand. A robust and transparent evidence base will allow us to get a better understanding of the scale of the challenge faced and support the process of identifying potential housing locations.
  • Recommendation 11: We welcome the Commission’s proposal to establish a Scottish Land Delivery Agency . We believe that working with planners and the planning system this can be a game changer in delivering more houses and ensuring that they are sustainable and well designed. 
  • Recommendation 12: We believe that there is a role for new communities in helping to provide more new housing, providing that they are well planned and located to ensure they are they are sustainable and resilient .  However they may be only one part of the way forward and other approaches must also explored including development in existing towns and cities and settlement extensions.          
  • Recommendation 13: We support the Commission’s call for a reduction in VAT to 5% on refurbishment and maintenance building works.
  • Recommendation 14: We support the Commission’s proposals for a Change Fund for the social housing sector.