Building More Homes And Delivering Infrastructure
10. Being clear about how much housing land is required.
The consultation paper was clear that more needs to be done to support housing delivery and we maintain that view. Work on planning for housing is ongoing alongside developing proposals for legislative change. We proposed that more could be done nationally, through the National Planning Framework, to guide the level of housing land required in local development plans.
- Different stakeholders have concerns about this proposal.
- Some do not support what they perceive to be centralisation, removing decisions on housing away from the local context, reducing transparency and a loss of flexibility.
- There are mixed views from the development industry, including some concerns that too flexible an approach at a national or regional level will do little to improve clarity, as well as calls for greater involvement and challenge in the Housing Needs and Demands Assessment ( HNDA) process.
- Planning authorities and others argue that a clear national steer on housing land requirements would be welcomed if it helps to streamline local development planning and free up resources.
We have taken into account responses to the consultation, including the wide range of views on whether or not housing figures should be set at a national or local level.
Whilst it will be important to ensure that future changes to the planning system are equipped to deal effectively with planning for housing, we expect this to be addressed as a priority in policy and guidance, rather than through structural change to the system. Bearing in mind our proposals for enhancing the role of the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy, we will continue to work with housing professionals, planning authorities and developers to identify a solution which minimises the level of debate on how much land is required for housing. The objective is to allow everyone to focus more on delivering sufficient good quality housing which improves places and is supported by the right infrastructure.
11. Closing the gap between planning consent and delivery of homes.
We suggested that planning authorities could take more steps to actively help deliver development. Much of this would be supported by the wider proposed changes to the planning system as a whole, and the consultation paper noted that in addition, planning authorities could do more to enable development through greater use of existing powers (such as Compulsory Purchase Orders) as well as new and emerging delivery models and approaches. We also called for major applications for housing to be accompanied by appropriate information on development viability.
- Views on how this can be achieved range from those who argue that they will have little impact on delivery to others who are concerned that a drive to improve delivery could come at an environmental or social cost.
- Planning authorities have emphasised that their influence on the type of homes provided is limited.
- There are wider views that the lack of competition in the housing market (e.g. from smaller builders) is impacting on the diversity of homes delivered.
- There is agreement that planning can and should do more to support the delivery of different types of homes in different locations.
- Communities have emphasised the importance of creating high quality places rather than too great a focus on housing numbers. Within this, there is support for brownfield land in preference to greenfield sites, protection of prime agricultural land, and better co-ordination of housing with local facilities and infrastructure.
- The proposal for fuller information on development viability to support major applications has been welcomed by communities and most planning and policy respondents, but is not supported by the majority of development industry respondents. Some respondents have pointed out that assessments can change over time and that different circumstances will determine whether or not it can be made available.
Housing delivery is a continuing priority for this review. We will continue to work with others, including through the More Homes Scotland approach, to ensure that planning does all it can to enable the building of more high quality homes of a broader range of types, and in a way which strengthens places and quality of life. We remain clear that planning for housing should recognise the importance of working with our environmental assets to create great places.
We maintain that fuller information on the viability of sites and development delivery should be part of a planning process and will continue to develop this further with a view to future guidance.
Whilst changes to Compulsory Purchase Orders, Compulsory Sale Orders and a development land tax could all influence the context for planning for housing, we are exploring options around these separately and they will not be taken forward as part of the Planning Bill. We will, however, pursue revised guidance for operation of existing CPO powers in the short term.
12. Releasing more 'development ready' land for housing.
We suggested that greater use of a zoned approach to development has potential to support housing delivery. We are now progressing four pilot Simplified Planning Zones in Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, North Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway to explore the potential for this further. We have also undertaken research, including a fact-finding visit to Ireland to look at their use of Strategic Development Zones.
- There is support for this in principle, but also questions about the extent to which this might result in a loss of development quality or engagement, or could undermine wider commitments to robust environmental assessment and design.
- Communities want to ensure that zoned areas are well serviced by infrastructure, fully consulted on and assessed for their impacts, including on the environment.
- Business and development industry respondents broadly welcome the proposal but are seeking further information.
- Questions have been raised about funding, both for establishing a zone and for providing the infrastructure, with some noting that fees would be lost whilst upfront resources would be needed.
- Others question the appropriateness of allocating a large area of land for a single use and there are calls for design, masterplanning and / or coding to be used to ensure quality of place.
We remain of the view that zoning has potential to unlock significant areas for housing development, including by supporting alternative delivery models such as custom and self-build. This could also support wider objectives including business development and town centre renewal.
We expect to bring forward proposals for legislative change that will refresh and rebrand Simplified Planning Zones and allow them to be progressed in a wider range of circumstances. These changes will be designed in a way which addresses issues raised in the consultation including the need for environmental assessment, design and quality to be built into schemes, and community engagement to be incorporated. We are also minded to make provision for discretionary charging. We will look at broadening the way in which the idea of establishing a zone can be progressed, including by allowing for Ministers to direct a zone to be established where it is in the national interest. Both local authorities and site promoters could also be given scope to bring proposals for zoning forward.
As with our wider aim of delivering more homes, opportunities for design, innovation and placemaking should be integral to these proposals.
13. Embedding an infrastructure first approach.
Effective infrastructure planning can ensure that places function properly and development improves, rather than detracts from quality of life. The consultation considered infrastructure governance, duties and responsibilities. We invited views on our proposal for a national working group to co-ordinate infrastructure and planning and also on whether our proposals for regional scale strategic planning would improve planning for infrastructure.
- A range of views have emerged from the consultation - most agree that some sort of action is required to address the issue and progress change.
- Some believe there is a need for a new national body, in many cases businesses or the development industry, and argue that a less formal arrangement would lack impetus.
- Others support a working group approach on the basis of concerns about creating another agency and 'increasing bureaucracy'.
- Co-ordination and communication is widely recognised as a priority, and many agree that there is scope to build on existing experience.
- There are also concerns about the extent to which an agency or delivery group would treat different areas of Scotland equitably.
Scottish Ministers remain of the view that a new agency is not needed to improve the links between planning and infrastructure. We have also taken into account views that a working group may or may not lack influence or impetus. As there are different views on appropriate arrangements, but consensus on a need for action in the short term, we have asked the Scottish Futures Trust to work with us to take forward support for significant stalled sites in combination with the ongoing brokerage role of the Chief Planner. This will also link with the More Homes Scotland programme. Rather than having statutory powers, this would be led by the Scottish Government and involve infrastructure providers as and when required. We believe a task based approach is likely to have the greatest impact in the shortest time.
Furthermore, we are continuing to consider options for a national delivery group to support improved co-ordination of development and infrastructure issues. To inform this we will continue a dialogue with the current key agencies and private sector delivery partners including on transport (rail), electricity, gas, heat, telecommunications and digital infrastructure providers. Over the coming months, this would provide a useful forum to discuss any potential changes to duties and powers to be considered for inclusion in the legislation.
We will continue to engage in the forthcoming review of the Infrastructure Investment Plan to ensure that the National Planning Framework informs decision making about future investment priorities. As proposals take shape, continuing alignment with ongoing work on the Enterprise and Skills Review and the National Transport Strategy's review of transport governance at the national, regional and local levels will be critical over the coming months.
Our proposal to move strategic development planning towards regional partnership working can also help to improve infrastructure governance and co-ordination. Infrastructure planning, from transport and utilities to catchment scale water and flooding management and green networks, requires a strong evidence base and often a cross boundary perspective. To develop the regional scale of infrastructure planning in more detail, we will explore approaches to regional infrastructure audits further over the coming months. We will also continue to work with infrastructure providers to define how best to facilitate their involvement in the planning system.
14. Creating a fairer and more transparent approach to funding infrastructure.
We suggested that a new means of capturing land value uplift, in the form of an infrastructure levy, could be used to strengthen the scope for planning to support the delivery of development. We commissioned research and published a report of Stage 1 and 2 of this work alongside the consultation paper in January 2017. We also proposed removing scope for Section 75 planning obligations to be modified or discharged (Section 75A).
- There appears to be general support for the principle of introducing a levy, but views vary on the form it should take.
- Many consultees are seeking further information before reaching a view on whether or not it would be a positive change.
- The development industry are questioning what a levy would fund, with concerns that it would be used to replace central funding for infrastructure.
- Businesses are seeking more information on the impacts on project viability and are concerned that it could apply to development which has no impact on infrastructure.
- Public sector respondents consider that the amount of money a levy might raise may be limited, and that it may not help if it does not make funds available to support upfront costs.
- There is support for a mechanism which could supplement the contributions gathered through Section 75 planning obligations and a recognition of a need for different solutions.
- Strong views opposing the removal of Section 75A on the part of the development sector contrast with strong support for this change by communities.
We remain of the view that options for a levy or charge merit further consideration. We will finalise and publish a Stage 3 research report which identifies options that could be tested further. We will continue to explore this with assistance from the Scottish Futures Trust before coming to a view on the level of detail that can or should be included in the Planning Bill.
Having considered responses to the consultation as well as evidence on appeal cases for Section 75A in more detail, we are not currently minded to remove the provisions at Section 75A for modifying planning obligations. However, we remain open to considering whether changes to Section 75 may be required in connection with future decisions on the role of a levy.
15. Innovative infrastructure planning.
We highlighted a number of other planning priorities in Places, People and Planning including education, transport, green infrastructure, energy and digital infrastructure. This work continues to progress, involving extensive collaboration across Scottish Government policy areas. We have taken forward enhanced permitted development rights for telecommunications infrastructure and will continue our work on education infrastructure planning in the coming months.
We also sought views on whether Section 3F of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as introduced by Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 should be removed. There appears to be general support for this, based on our view that it has limited added value. However, there are some concerns that removing this appears to be inconsistent with the aspirations of the emerging Climate Change Plan. Given our commitment to climate change and the need for every policy area to contribute to reducing emissions, it is not our intention to progress this through the Planning Bill.
Email: Chris Sinclair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House