Will Scotland’s housing and infrastructure planning change in the next year?
Is the time right to advance Scotland’s infrastructure and housing planning system?
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has been leading the charge recently for this, with a view to consult on further reforms to the planning system.
This could be a big move for the Aberdeen market, with suggestions from Alex Neil that we need to look at the resources within planning departments of our local authorities as part of further development.
Figures from Aberdeen City Council show that between 2005 and 2010, the number of dwellings in the city increased by 3.1 per cent – and that number is still growing. A simple look at our house builders page shows that the numbers of new houses being built is continuing to swell in the North East of Scotland: and with this extended growth comes the need to make sure that a framework is in place.
While there have been changes made to the house planning system over the ten year period from the start of these figures, there needs to be continuous improvement of existing procedures and systems, in order to make sure that house builders and the people of Scotland are best served.
It has been suggested that one way to do this is to look at strategic planning before anything else: with infrastructure implemented first before house building. A theory applauded by the Royal Town Planning Institute, it has been suggested that connecting places via good transport infrastructure should play a role in housing.
This is interesting to note, especially since connectivity was an issue raised in the 2014 National Planning Framework (NPF3).
The report suggested the need to promote digital infrastructure and enhanced strategic transport links in order to ‘achieve well-connected economic clusters’, with High Speed Rail, Strategic Airport Enhancements, Grangemouth Investment Zone, Freight on the Forth, Aberdeen Harbour and a National Digital Fibre Network identified as national developments.
New harbour facilities and onshore transport links in Aberdeen were suggested as part of the framework to address current capacity constraints. No official deadline was given for this change, and with uncertainty over the oil industry, this could fall down the list of priorities for the Scottish Government.
Making Scotland more focused on low carbon energy, sustainability and creating a natural, resilient environment were also suggestions raised by the NPF3, with these areas possibly set to form part of the future proposals later in the year – and could lead to new regulations potentially coming into place.
While none of these ideas are new, it is important that the government continues to think about them, especially when it comes to house building.
Issues such as carbon footprint, use of brownfield land for building and air pollution could all be raised at the upcoming consultation, with each potentially leading to issues for house builders. Affordable housing in relations to new builds could also be discussed, if you look at issues mentioned during the general election.
While we cannot guess what the outcome of the reforms will be later this year, we can suggest that the need for sustainable development will grow, with local government putting more emphasis and responsibility into planning.
Ultimately, as the country modernises, so must our approach to planning. The future of our housing and infrastructure depends on it.