Draft Strategic Housing Plan approved for the Highlands
Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee has approved a draft Strategic Housing Plan for 2021-2026 that sets out the local authority’s key housing investment priorities and demonstrates how they will be delivered for development across the region.
The Plan, which will be submitted to the Scottish Government for approval, also identifies the resources required to deliver new homes and outlines the partnership approach with housing associations and developers to achieve the council’s commitment to providing more quality affordable housing.
The strategy sets out how investment in affordable housing will be directed up until 2026 with up to 500 new homes built each year, of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for intermediate affordable housing (e.g. low-cost home ownership or mid-market rent)
Funding will come from a mix of City Region Deal cash, Highland Council prudential borrowing and grants from the Scottish Government.
Chair of the committee, Councillor Trish Robertson, said: “Our investment in housing is helping to support jobs in the building industry and also providing people and families with access to good quality, affordable homes where they can be safe and warm. I am pleased that the committee has approved this draft strategic plan as we need a clear and workable way to see our ambitions turn into reality over the next five years.
“Housing is and will remain a priority for the council. The Plan lays out our go-getting goal and I am confident that over the next five years we will reach the target thanks to the effective and productive partnership approach we have developed with the Scottish Government, housing associations and the private sector.”
She added: “In our wider enabling role, we will continue to work to bringing forward sites we own for re-development and work with the private sector to unlock the constraints for other strategic sites throughout the Highlands, using or own Landbank Fund, the Scottish Government Infrastructure Loan Fund and any other funding opportunities that become available.”
The next item on the agenda was relevant to the creation of more affordable homes as the committee gave their support to officers to secure a compulsory purchase order for the derelict Struan Hotel in Carrbridge under Sections 9 and 10 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, with the aim of developing the land into affordable housing for the benefit of the community.
The head of development and regeneration will report back to the committee should there be a problem with the CPO moving forward.
Elsewhere, the committee also discussed a progress update on projects across the Highlands receiving support from the Inverness Highland City Region Deal.
Members were pleased to note that although the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent national lockdown earlier in the year caused work on projects to be suspended, sites are now back up and running.
The projects affected include the building of affordable homes across the Highlands and the enabling works to transform Inverness Castle into a top visitor attraction. During the committee, it was confirmed that sites are now back up and running and adhering to all COVID health and safety rules.
Other highlights of progress made included the completion of the A9/A96 Smithton Interchange consultation, the restart of the Fit Home build programme and the installation of the eye-catching hoardings around Inverness Castle.
Inverness Highland City Region Deal projects have had to adapt to the current COVID environment, often by temporarily changing the way they work.
Cllr Trish Robertson said: “It is good news that work on sites has resumed as not only does it provide local employment, but it also means an increase in spend in communities. During these economic challenging times, this is very welcome.
“While we cannot currently make the Newton Room facilities available to schools, a good example of how every effort is being made to adapt to the situation is that special education kits and outdoor learning resources are being provided to schools until pupils can attend, which we hope will be by next term.”
Council leader, Cllr Margaret Davidson, added: “I am very pleased that we are moving forward again and have been very heartened by the excellent efforts of staff to get us there. The castle project is doing particularly well, and I know that Transport Scotland is working closely with us on the 2 main roads projects and how we are adapting them to a new post covid world.
“I am also delighted we are finally making some progress of the broadband project and seeing how that can help us deliver our ambitions of a fibre to premises model for all of Highland. Where we may not be able to deliver a full project, we are negotiating with both governments to see if we can divert spend to other areas or to expand current projects.
“Our new officer in post, Felix McGunnigle is doing well and keeping us well appraised of developments.”