Flexible planning system required to deliver much need rural housing

Rural housing - Oran na Mara, s-shaped house, HarrisScottish Land & Estates has called for Scotland’s planning system to create more flexible rural housing policies to support delivery of rural housing and self-build homes.

Publishing its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of the Scottish planning system, the organisation, which represents landowners and rural businesses across Scotland, has said the planning system needs to take better account of the needs of land-based businesses and communities.

The organisation said it recognises the “critical role” that planning can and should play in developing Scotland’s rural communities, both in terms of housing provision and opportunities for business growth and infrastructure development.

Arguing that smaller sites will be the key to making significant progress on the Scottish Government’s ambitious housing targets, Scottish Land & Estates said it wants to see a planning system that does not further burden small and medium developers with more costs but instead incentivises them.

Equally it wants to see the role that landowners play in the planning system better recognised. In particular, the role of landowners in taking forward visionary developments including new settlements and driving up standards in design and place making should be more widely recognised and encouraged.

The organisation has also called for increased permitted development rights for agricultural businesses to reflect modern business practices; a greater understanding of the needs of land-based businesses within the planning system and greater consistency of decision-making.

Gavin Mowat, policy officer (communities & rural development) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The planning consultation is a worthwhile exercise in establishing which aspects of the current system are working well and where there are other features that need to improve. That said, we are slightly concerned that a lack of detail regarding the overall future of Scottish planning may lead to a situation where we are left with more questions than solutions following the review process.

“We believe that greater importance needs to be placed on rural development and we have called for greater flexibility for the countryside. The Scottish Government has a target to build 50,000 affordable homes over the term of this parliament and the planning process can support delivery of rural housing and self-build homes by creating more flexible rural housing policies.

“One issue in particular that we would like see progress on is non-residential developments in rural areas. All too often our members tell us that they experience issues with a planning system that is unresponsive to the needs of land-based businesses and does not have sufficient expertise, especially where the council is more urban-focused.

“We have proposed several mechanisms by which developments in rural areas could be enhanced. We would like to see extended permitted development rights to cover conversion of vernacular buildings such as farm steadings for both housing and business units. In addition to this, we would like to see the permitted development right size for agricultural sheds increased from 465sq/m to 1,000sq/m, reflecting the changes in modern agriculture practices which involve much larger vehicles and machinery than in previous years.

“More can be achieved in our rural areas with a more agile system and we hope that the Scottish Government will take full account of the needs of a working countryside as it moves forward with its planning review.”