You may well have seen articles in the mainstream press over the weekend about the “dramatic decline in planning approvals” which threaten the Scottish government’s target of 50,000 affordable homes over the duration of the current parliament.
The reality is that, despite the many cries of distress which the media tend to exaggerate, the construction industry has actually fared pretty well since the end of the last recession. According to David Smith in The Sunday Times, since the start of the current upswing in 2009, construction has been “the big winner (and) its output is 34% up on the mid 2009 trough, though only up 11% on the pre-2008-2009 recession peak.”
That said, we know we need to build more houses, and this depends on the numbers going through the planning system. Homes for Scotland (HfS) represents some 200 housebuilders and is warning that, despite a 15% increase in the number of homes built last year, the number of planning approvals for new-build developments has fallen by 6.6%. This includes a 19% reduction in social housing permissions.
As reported in the press on Sunday, Tammy Swift-Adams, planning officer at HfS, said: “The dramatic drop in approvals in the fourth quarter of last year is alarming. It must not be assumed by planning authorities that 2018’s stronger completions record will continue with no further action required on their part. They need to allocate more land in areas where people want to live. They also need to address poor performance in decision-making.
“Many homebuilders are nearing the completion of consented sites without new ones to move on to.”
Naturally, the government says everything is OK. Or, as they put it, “Our forthcoming planning bill will make the system more efficient and effective. Rather than legislating for third-party rights of appeal, we believe that much more can be achieved by involving people in a positive way at an earlier stage in the planning process, a view backed by an independent review of the current system.”
As always, time, and the market, will decide….
Linsey Toland, Peace Recruitment