Housing targets

Whilst I recognise there is a need for more housing, and particularly affordable housing, I would question the ultimate benefits of having an agreed housing land target.

On the one hand there is an argument that you need to assess need and demand, currently through HNDA's, and this then helps each area arrive at how many houses they need to build or find land for. This process does have the outcome of a specific target but it is a lengthy and time consuming process. From start of an HNDA to adoption of an LDP can be around 4 years. Not to mention the time spent in consultation and arguments over the numbers and how to deliver these.

On the other the Scottish Government has placed a great deal of emphasis on placemaking and making sure that the planning system delivers the right development in the right place. This can at times conflict with the need for housing and can result in authorities feeling they need to have a less than desirable site to meet a target. Additionally if a refusal does go to appeal, frequently a shortage in effective housing land supply can be a deciding factor and can be given more weighting than other considerations.

No way is perfect and there would need to be a degree of balance but surely it should be agreed that public sector planners need to spend less time arguing, agreeing targets and continually preparing Local Development Plans, and actually spend more time doing proper 'planning' such as preparing development briefs, masterplans and setting out to achieve a higher standard of design and place.

I wonder if there is scope to be a bit 'radical' and move away from specific housing targets for each area and have each authority covered by a comprehensive strategy setting out areas for growth and in depth design guidance. These new style plans would not have any specific site allocations or housing targets but would provide a robust framework to identify where development should and should not take place.

Obviously I don't think in reality it could be as clear cut as I outline above as there will be issues with planning for appropriate infrastructure for example, but I just wish to emphasise that planning is not a mathematical exercise. As a profession we should not be led purely by numbers to the detriment of proper placemaking.

Why the contribution is important

Planning in Scotland seems to be at a dangerous tipping point and there is a concern that as a profession we are being almost forced into 'planning by numbers'. As outlined above, planning is not a mathematical excercise and the Scottish Government has the opportunity through this review to address this and let planners get back to what we should be doing.

by plannerm on February 10, 2016 at 12:34PM

Current Rating

Average score : 4.0
Based on : 4 votes


  • Posted by DJJ February 20, 2016 at 12:41

    While I somewhat agree with the justification, I don't agree with the prescription.

    As discussed in other posts, the bigger the pie (housing supply target and consequent housing land requirement), the bigger everyone's piece (landowner/developer/house builder land value uplift). What this doesn't actually achieve is actual houses being built. This is the principal reason there are protracted disputes about numbers.

    The best solution is for all sides to be more realistic about what can and should be built.

    With no targets or land allocations there will be no certainty for infrastructure providers, communities or developers and delivering development at all would be much more difficult if not impossible. This would actually be to no-one's advantage.

    Planning is about much more than narrowly defined 'placemaking'. It is about looking to the future, setting a course and seeking to facilitate movement in that direction...at a variety of spatial scales. While not diminishing its importance, the profession (and society as a whole) would be significantly impoverished if it was only interested in site-specific masterplanning.
  • Posted by Jack_Thorn February 28, 2016 at 20:25

    I agree with DJJ - targets are a necessary evil but must be set realistically.
  • Posted by BrianMcNeil February 29, 2016 at 18:05

    Targets for housing are needed, but Scotland has, historically, been less interested in "affordable housing" than England & Wales. There is far, far, more need for social housing; something which developers are unwilling to involve themselves with due to the returns being modest, although over significantly longer periods.
Log in or register to add comments and rate ideas