The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to introduce a package of measures to deliver 100,000 new homes and ensure Scotland has no hard to heat homes by 2030 as the party unveiled its push for planning and housing to enable economic growth.
Publishing its manifesto for the 2017 local government election, the Tories said housing “has to become a priority for all levels of government over the coming years” and promised to argue for a focus on all tenures and an all-sector target to return to pre-recession annual levels of house-building.
To do so, the manifesto says brownfield land registers should be established and a presumption to build on brownfield where housing is a major component of the planning application introduced.
The Scottish Government, in cooperation with local authorities, should also establish developer forums, online portals or workshops to help smaller builders, it adds.
The party also believes councils should develop serviced plots and make them available with plot passports that would not require planning permission, with councils able to mandate a percentage of large housing developments to be set aside as such serviced plots.
New build homes, the manifesto argues, will only be one part of the equation, with a concerted effort to bring the over 30,000 empty properties across Scotland back into use and action to improve existing housing stock to bring it up to high energy efficiency standards also high on the agenda.
The Conservatives also pledged to make the required changes to the planning system, which the party argues has “lost confidence of local communities” due to centralised decision-making and “stifled development” due to persistent delays. Instead it proposes an improved consultation process during the drawing up of local plans and a limit to appeals made to central government.
The party also believes councils should be allowed to impose moratoria on greenbelt development and that the case for a limited third party right of appeal should be re-examined.
It would also explore whether local authorities could levy planning fee supplements in return for guaranteed faster decision-making, with full refunds if such guarantees are broken.
Unveiling the manifesto yesterday, party leader Ruth Davidson said: “The council elections are a chance for people to make clear the priorities they want in Scotland.
“It’s to ensure we have local councils focused on your school and your local services, not on a divisive referendum campaign most people don’t want.
“We have two key points to make at this election. After ten years of SNP centralisation, we want to make the case for localism – so decisions are put back in the hands of your local community.”