An industry-compiled "league table" rating the planning performance of Scotland's 32 councils has been suggested by the new chairman of Homes for Scotland as a means to speeding up improvements in the processing of applications.
Sandy Adams, chief executive of the Moray-based housebuilders Springfield Properties, appointed to the year-long rotating chairmanship of the industry group this summer, told the Sunday Herald that "only about 20%" of the planning departments of Scotland's 32 councils had pro-active leadership of the sort likely to impact Scotland's chronic lack of new houses and "zoned" land supply. An outspoken advocate of industry standards as well as a critic of perceived local government "faffing", Adams drew a distinction between council planners who pro-actively approached housebuilders to ensure that they had the resources to expedite the application, and "those who don't even reply to emails".
He said that housebuilders were unlikely to attempt development more than once in a council area where planners had shown themselves to be "restrictors rather than enablers" of new development, costing fragile areas of Scotland jobs and economic benefits.
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"They [the planners] should be competing amongst themselves for our members' investment, but they [the poorly performing councils] don't see it like that, they see the inconvenience of another planning application."
Adams, who acknowledged improvements in the "culture" of Scottish planning system, pointed to the "shocking statistic" that of the 35,000 annual new houses required to meet Scottish demand only about 15,000 or 40% were build last year.
Homes for Scotland is in talks with ministers about ways to end the "stop-start nature" of the Help to Buy (Scotland) shared equity scheme funding. Although an extra £100m has been allocated for 2015-16, Homes for Scotland said lack of continuity "is making business planning and investment decisions very difficult".