Call for planning reform to recognise challenges of rural housing provision

Rural Housing ScotlandRural Housing Scotland (RHS) has welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s reforms of the planning system but warned that any changes must take specific rural challenges into consideration.

The organisation said that the proposed reforms, published earlier this week, should cut into the time it takes to get new homes from the design stage to being ready for people to move in.

Debbie Mackay, director of planning with property experts Savills and a member of the board of Rural Housing Scotland, said: “The government has moved swiftly to consider, welcome and push forward the recommendations of the ‘Empowering Planning’ review. This shows real commitment to meaningful reform of our planning system and is hugely welcome.

“The immediate actions and challenging timescales they 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 changes 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.”

RHS convener, Alastair Cameron, added: “There’s much in this to welcome: the objectives for speedier decision-making and ensuring effective community engagement are right, and we’re pleased to see a commitment to involving rural interests in liaison activities, and to ‘island-proofing’ the effects of planning policy and practice. As ever, it’s in the detail where things might prove trickier.

“In our experience, and as the Scottish Government knows, rural housing development can be especially challenged by environmental, infrastructural and cost constraints. Reform needs to recognise these challenges if rural communities are to benefit as well as our cities.”

Following a further stage of consultation, the Scottish Government expects to put the reform plans forward in a new Planning Bill in 2017.

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