Committee calls for planning culture overhaul to alleviate pressures on rural housing provision


A planning system burdened by a centuries-old belief that the countryside should be protected from development is exacerbating a serious shortage of housing in Scotland’s rural areas, according to a Scottish Parliament report published today.

The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee is calling for a cultural change in local authorities to end the “over-cautious planning culture” which is hampering new housing developments across Scotland’s rural areas.

The report, published following a major inquiry, also calls for:

  • an extension to the pressured area status system to give councils the ability to access a ‘toolbox’ of measures to increase housing supply where there are serious pressures on rural housing, including the power to levy increased council tax rates on second homes in areas with a serious housing shortage
  • the rolling out of a partnership system pioneered by the Highland Housing Alliance as a model of best practice for other parts of Scotland
  • an urgent review of the effectiveness of homelessness legislation, particularly the duties placed on councils to prioritise the needs of homeless people
  • the removal of the practical barriers preventing some private landowners from making land and housing available to local people.

Committee Convener Maureen Watt said: ”Fundamental to the overall approach taken in this report is that many more houses need to be built in rural Scotland – the committee is very clear on that.

"It is also clear from the inquiry that more needs to be done to give local authorities more powers to deal with pressures caused by a lack of rural housing in specific geographical areas. This includes the possibility of allowing them to increase council tax charges on second homes or to access compulsory purchase powers in areas of high need where land is lying empty.

"We also need to improve the way private landowners, housing groups and other organisations work together to create homes for rural communities.”

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