The Government recognises the impact the global recession has had on the property sector, and that in these difficult economic times, sites are struggling to come to fruition - sometimes due to infrastructure need. We have listened to the development sector and in the summer will be launching an initiative to assist sites which have stalled specifically due to the lack of enabling infrastructure. The Scottish Government will investigate these sites, and where it is appropriate, take action to enable them to take their course.
It is essential that all of those who have a role in delivering development have a sound understanding of development economics, and the factors which affect viability. From today we are pleased to launch what will become a suite of resources to support all stakeholders to better understand development economics and viability issues. In October 2012, we will focus the annual planning and economic development summit on identifying additional innovative actions which can be taken across sectors to deliver development and sustainable economic growth.
The Government is fully aware of the financial constraints many developers are operating within, and the difficulties posed by the need to pay upfront for planning obligations. To assist with cash flow, we have been investigating the potential to introduce a development charge mechanism, which could permit developers to pay for infrastructure downstream, as units were built and/or sold. In 2011 we published findings of the research we commissioned into development charges in the Scottish planning system. And today a public consultation has been launched on development delivery.
Section 75 planning obligations play an important role in securing developer contributions towards the costs of providing essential infrastructure. Recent changes to the legislation include the introduction of a formal process for modifying or discharging obligations (including a right of appeal to Scottish Ministers) and allowing developers and landowners to enter into unilateral obligations in respect of their land. There has been some concern that these provisions could discourage parties from entering into agreements under s75 to front-fund infrastructure given the potential for subsequent modifications being made. In revising Circular 1/2010 we will clarify advice in this area.
The Scottish Government's Chief Planner has written to planning authorities emphasising Government Guidance - as set out in Circular 1/2010 - regarding the use of deferred contributions and on the use of s75 to impose occupancy restrictions. We will incorporate this into the revision of Circular 1/2010 by the end of June 2012. We will also take forward work on a pilot scheme to scope out the potential for standard templates/model obligations to assist developers and landowners to prepare unilateral s75 obligations.
The Scottish Government recognises that the ultimate test of a high quality planning system is the maintenance and creation of places where people want to be - to live, to work or simply to enjoy. The Government recognises the value of investing in quality design and is committed to taking forward an agenda that focuses on collaborative place-making.
Through the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative ( SSCI) and the subsequent design Charrette Series the Government is encouraging a new approach to place-making and design with an emphasis on community engagement and design quality which should assist efficient decision making which enhances the quality of outcomes. A further programme of charrettes will be rolled out in 2012/13.
The Government has agreed to also work with Renfrewshire Council, the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority and South Ayrshire Council to deliver the outputs of the recent Johnstone South West, Callendar and Girvan charrettes.
In parallel the Scottish Government will lead in developing a series of events and online resources to develop masterplanning skills to encourage the greater use of graphic communication in planning. Training events will be developed for professionals and students in both these areas. Today we have launched a new website to collate examples of good housing design to promote and celebrate achievement in housing design. Projects selected range from conversions through to large scale masterplanning from a range of national and local design awards which, in the last 3 years, have either received a commendation or an award. The intention is that the website will inspire built environment professionals and operate as a 'live' resource database which, over time, will be expanded.
The Scottish Government has made a commitment to bring forward a new policy statement on Architecture and Placemaking. This will be an opportunity to reinstate the importance of design within built environment policies and for the focus on outcomes and delivery within planning to support other Government policy objectives. This will be published at the end of 2012.