Last week the examination report was published on the proposed SESplan strategic development plan.
The recommendations from examination of SESplan are good news for housing developers, but are there lessons forthe currentreform of the planning system?
Increasing housing supply
The Reporter has recommended increasing the housing supply targets by approximately 30,000 new homes - an increase of 48%.
This followed detailed consideration of issues including:
- the Housing Need and Demand Assessment wealth distribution future
- the risk in setting excessively high housing supply targets
- providing for the past shortfalls in delivery
- redistributing some of Edinburgh's housing requirement
- the all-tenure approach and providing for affordable housing
The SESplan housing supply targets have to be implemented throughlocal development plans. Currently new LDPs have to be prepared every 5 years; the Planning (Scotland) Bill proposes to extend that to 10 years.
One assumes the councils in the SESplan areas will act timeously to bring forward appropriate policy changes to address the SESplan recommendations (if/ onceapproved by the Scottish Ministers). However, the 10 year time limit for preparing an LDP would remove the time pressure for making those changes, which could lead to delays, especially if there islocal community concernabout proposed allocation of new housing sites.
For example, almost half of the SESplanhousing supply is to be in theCity of Edinburgh Councilarea. The current Edinburgh LDP was adopted in November 2016. If a 10 year time limit is introduced, a new LDP would not need to be adopted until 2026 -in eight years' time. This indicates a need for Scottish Ministersto consider introducing interim time limits for new LDPs.
A key proposal of the Planning (Scotland) Bill is the abolition of SESplan and the other strategic development plans.
Following the abolition of SDPs, the Scottish Government says that the agreement of housing supply and demand figuresis to be undertaken at a national level. Presumably that will be through the National Planning Framework.
Until further details are available, it is impossible to assess whether the newprocedures will be more effective.
The SESplan recommendation shows the value of independent examination by an expert Reporter. In particular, the report shows the complexity of the issues. It is therefore a concern that the Scottish Government intend to remove that opportunity and, in effect, replace it with scrutiny ofthe NPFby the non-expert Scottish Parliament.
Although delivering houses is a key objective of theplanning reform process, there are concerns that the reforms mightdelay implementation of the SESplanincreased housing supply targets, and also remove the opportunity for similar independent expertrecommendations to be made in the future. Food for thought for the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliamentin further considering the Planning (Scotland) Bill.