Shoogle Up the Housing Market Removing Auld Red Tape?
At the end of August last year the Home Builders Federation released figures showing the number of new homes given planning permission for the first half of 2011 in the UK. The information is split by region and it showed a worrying trend for Scotland. In two years the proportion of new homes built in Scotland has halved. In 2009 it represented 18% of the overall number and now this has fallen to 9%.
Complaints have long been made across the UK for more land to be made available for new homes to be built on, an endemic problem within small countries with ever growing populations and finite boundaries. So, as no boundary is as finite as the North Sea and with little internal land available to free up, the Scottish government has done the next best thing and relaxed the rules for home improvements.
The new, more simplified rules apply to projects such as extensions, garages and sheds though of course previous restrictions remain in place for listed buildings or conservations areas. The hope is to reduce planning applications by around 4000 developments. Whilst this falls short of freeing up protected land for new homes it will ease pressure on the overall demand for new homes as current properties are extended and developed more quickly. For example, a couple with one child in a two bedroom terrace house can extend their property should they have more children rather than take up potential new builds.
However, the new rules don’t mean large extensions for extra flats for example will be accepted any more easily. Planning Minister Derek Mackay said “We consulted extensively before introducing these changes and I am confident they strike the right balance between cutting red tape to help householders and protecting privacy and the appearance of Scotland's buildings”. If the new simplified home improvement rules are a success north of the border England could hope to see a similar change though nothing has been officially confirmed. However, as the drive by the coalition government to cut costs continues to bite, improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning system in Scotland will be difficult to ignore if proven in practice.
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