Housebuilders hold talks with cabinet secretary over planning issues

Nicola Barclay

SENIOR figures from Scotland’s housebuilding sector have held talks with Aileen Campbell MSP, cabinet secretary for communities and local government, to discuss overcoming concerns relating to planning.

The representatives emphasised the leadership role the Scottish Government has to play in ‘increasing acceptance of housing delivery’ at a local level, and the importance of implementing an improved planning system in the midst of ongoing political uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland facilitated the conversation involving a group of the organisation’s members. She said, “With overall housing delivery still 30% below that of over a decade ago and latest figures showing a worrying drop in private sector activity, this is an absolutely crucial period – not only for those building the homes our growing population needs but also in terms of wider social and economic implications.

“This point was impressed upon the cabinet secretary, as was our wish that all those who want to see housing supply increased unite with us around the primary goal of delivering more homes of all types. Indeed, collaboration lies at the heart of our approach. Clearly, a planning system that facilitates home building is fundamental. Additionally, we must overcome the misconceptions many hold in relation to our industry and how it actually operates and navigates through what is an incredibly complex, costly and lengthy process.

“For our part, we need to be better at explaining this and in demonstrating the many positives (such as jobs, training, investment and improved health and education outcomes) that home building provides. And, although customer satisfaction levels are already high at almost 90%, we recognise our responsibility to ensure this increases further which is why the extension of the Five Star Builder scheme for Scottish-only builders last year was so important. This will help provide a clear benchmark for customers to assess builders on and is already demonstrating results with Perth-based A & J Stephen’s achievement of five stars.”

Ms Campbell said, “I was pleased to be invited to discuss current market conditions and potential with Homes for Scotland’s board. Providing more new high quality homes across all tenures is a key priority for the Scottish Government, and we value the contribution of home builders to improving lives and sustainable economic growth. Improving our housing system requires partnership working, clarity and honesty about what actions we can take. I hope Homes for Scotland and their members will continue to make their voices heard as we progress our work on housing beyond 2021.”