Saturday, 12 September 2009

Setting Housing Priorites

"Housing Privatisation, 30 Years on: Time for a Critical Re-appraisal"

This above named conference, due to take place in 2010, is timed to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of the privatisation of public housing and the expansion of owner occupation through the 'Right to Buy' Policy.

The organisers state:

"The contraction of affordable, secure, public rented housing in favour of reliance on the private sector is seen by critics as a major cause of today’s housing crisis. This public conference calls on academics, housing professionals, tenants’ and residents’ associations, policy makers, and campaigners to stand back and critically reflect on the aims, methods and, above all, consequences of this neoliberal agenda, and what lessons we can draw for future housing policy."

So let us look at some figures; the Shelter web site provides the following information:

For England

  • More than two million people find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with payments.
  • Families renting privately on low incomes have to put up with poor living conditions and little security.

For Scotland

  • In 2007-08, 40,299 households were accepted by their local authority as homeless or potentially homeless, and 32,111 of those households, were assessed as in priority need.
Of the people who make homeless applications:
  • 39 per cent are single men
  • 19 per cent are single parents who are female
  • 21 per cent are single women
  • 6 per cent are couples with children
  • 5 per cent are couples without children
  • 5 per cent are single parents who are male.
For Highland

The number of households on the council waiting list was 5,175 in March 2008, but only 824 new lets were available in 2007-2008. This means that it would take 6.3 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in Highland was £147,204.

For Moray

The number of households on the council waiting list was 2,537 in March 2008, but only 279 new lets were available in 2007-2008. This means that it would take 9.1 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in Moray was £131,504.

Using the figures provided on the Shelter Scotland web site across other areas of Scotland

  • In Aberdeenshire it would take 7.7 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in Aberdeenshire was £178,486.
  • In Perth and Kinross it would take 11.8 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in Perth & Kinross was £159,529.
  • In South Lanarkshire it would take 8.3 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in South Lanarkshire was £116,895.
  • In the City of Edingburgh it would take 12.8 years to clear the current waiting list. In April 2009 the average house price in City of Edinburgh was £194,965.

The Conference itself is set to explore a wide range of themes including taking a look at British society before and after privatisation; Council housing and social inequality - class, 'race' and gender; Life on today's council estates, working class culture, the idea of community; Political parties and privatisation - are they all the same? Winners and losers from privatisation: wealth redistribution, life chances, etc.

More food for thought as we contemplate what land use provision should be made and what should be campaigned for via representations on the Main Issues Report for the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.

Shelter Scotland Campaigns

Shelter Scotland will be at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, 16 September.

They are thanking people for supporting their Countdown to 2012 Campaign but say that they need further help. They are asking people;

"Please send your MSPs an email today to let them know just how important it is that Scotland gets the affordable housing it needs to ensure everyone has the right to a home by 2012."

Perhaps now it is time to focus more on rented rather than open market housing.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Developer-led Planning

Food for thought

The distinction between a developer-led and plan-led proposal are also misleading as it suggests that the two processes are separate. All development is inevitably developer-led during the planning process and the majority of plans are directly influenced by the involvement of developers. Indeed, planning policy requires a close dialogue between planning authorities and developers in plan making to ensure that policy delivers proposals which are both sustainable and deliverable.”

Taken from:

Draft Planning Policy
Statement: Eco-towns
Document 7

The Co-operative Group Response to the
Leicestershire County Council Scrutiny Panel Report

Thursday, 10 September 2009

"Quote of the week"

"The only truly sustainable present is one in which we do not build"

Jonathan Meades.

[To hear the quotation in context as part the programme 'Jonathan Meades; Off Kilter' watch the programme which was transmitted on BBC 4 last night at 9pm via BBC iPlayer]

Highland Area Profile

According to the Single Outcome Agreement Area profile:

"The Highlands comprise 33% of the Scottish landmass and include 14 inhabited islands. The
area has outstanding natural heritage, supported by the coverage of statutory designations to
protect the quality of the environment.

The population has grown over the past ten years by 4.3%, at a higher rate than for Scotland as a whole, and is estimated to be 219,4001.

While the region as a whole has grown in prosperity over the past 10 years, this growth has been uneven. Population growth and prosperity has been concentrated in the Inner Moray Firth area and some of the more remote and fragile areas have continued to suffer from outmigration of young people and a lack of economic opportunity. Around 35% of Working Age DWP Claimants live in remote rural areas (2007-8). Appendix 1 shows the map of fragile areas in Highland. Population decline is not confined to fragile rural areas but is found in small towns, notably Wick and Thurso.

Most population growth is due to migration, with more people moving to the Highlands than leaving. Population growth is not spread evenly across the Highlands, with relatively high population growth in the Inner Moray Firth area, the Isle of Skye and East Sutherland since 2001 and some areas of population decline, notably in small towns in the north of the region.

The population is dispersed: only 25% live in settlements of over 10,000 people; around 26% live in super sparse areas (more than 25 miles by road from any settlement with a population of 7,000); and 40% of the population live outside settlements of over 1,000 people.

In keeping with the demographic profile of Scotland, the population is ageing. Recent projections indicate that by 2031, the population aged over 75 years might double and account for 16.2% of the total population while the population aged 0-15 might reduce by 9.1% and account for 14.1% of the population. Positive signals come from increases in the number of births in Highland over the past five years2 and in the growth among younger migrants to the area. The balance of the population varies across the Highlands, with most imbalance in Skye and Wester Ross and Caithness and Sutherland with relatively fewer people aged 16-44yrs.

The evidence is that many workers from the Accession States in particular choose to stay for
more than 12 months. Figures published by the Institute of Public Policy Research in Floodgates or Turnstiles indicate that around 3,500 workers from the Accession States were resident in Highland at the end of 2007. Figures for 2008 are being reviewed but indicate fewer registrations compared to 2007.

A growing population and the trend to smaller household sizes have resulted in significant
household growth (between 1997 and 2007 the number of households grew by 13.6% to over
98,000). The provision of new housing has supported economic development and growth in
the construction sector; although in some areas an under supply of housing can constrain
economic development. The number of new houses completed was rising (a 25% increase
between 2005 and 2006 to 1,688 completions, rising again by 7% between 2006 and 2007 to
1,807 completions). In 2008 there were 1,471 completions, a reduction on previous years
and reflecting the crisis in financial markets and the reduced availability of credit.

Public administration, education and health not only account for up to one third of jobs in the
region, but public sector organisations, notably the Council and Health Service are the biggest
employers in the Highlands. The dispersed location of those jobs is important in sustaining
local communities.

The changing economic climate is having an impact on the Highland economy and unemployment levels are rising above seasonal levels expected from October 2008 and are expected to rise further during the course of the year. It is worth noting that increases in JSA claimants from October to January 2009 will be inflated by changes to benefit entitlement and benefit switching, accounting for a third of the increase over this period.

...for those in paid employment incomes tend to be low in the region. In 2008 the average income from all jobs in Highland (both full and part time) was £20,700; 90% of the Scottish average (£22,900) and 84% of the UK average (£23,500). The differentials for full time jobs are similar with the Highland income of £25,500 being 92% of the Scotland average (£27,800) and 85% of the UK average (£29,900). There was no significant change in the gap between Highland and Scotland & the UK in the two year period between 2006 and 2008. (All data from Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings)

The greatest pressure on house prices is found in the rural commuter belt around Inverness and in remote rural areas. Around a half of all houses costing £250,000 or more in 2006 were sold to buyers from outside the Highlands."

So what future opportunities will there be to make Highland a "Wealthier and Fairer" place? Well, amongst others:

"The following opportunities exist to help create a wealthier and fairer Highland:

1. New Highland Development Plan 2010 – to set out how communities can grow in a sustainable way and the infrastructure they will need."...

Do you think that the options put forward by the Planning Authority contained in the HwLDP will ensure that positive outcomes will be delivered for the whole of Highland?

"...better outcomes for the people of the Highlands..."

"The purpose of the Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) is to identify areas for improvement and to deliver better outcomes for the people of the Highlands and Scotland, through specific commitments made by the Council, its community planning partners and the Scottish Government."

The latest agreement between the Highland Community Planning Partners and the Scottish Government and seems to cover the period 2009-2011 and was signed on 27 July 2009

"The Agreement covers a range of public services in Highland. It is developed by partners on the Community Planning Partnership Performance Board, namely: Highland Council; NHS Highland; Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE); Northern Constabulary; Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service (HIFRS); University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute (UHI); and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) (representing the broader land group of public sector bodies).

In addition, the Agreement relies on the contributions from other public sector bodies through alignment of strategy and delivery, namely: the Northern Community Justice Authority; Job Centre Plus; Skills Development Scotland (SDS); HITRANS; and the Cairngorm National Park Authority.

Third sector representation in the community planning process is through: direct participation of voluntary organisations in partnership groups and forums; through dialogue over services commissioned; and through the development of a Compact currently underway with the following sector representatives (the CVS network, Voluntary Action Highland and the Highland Voluntary Sector Forum). Private sector engagement is currently through the new economy forum for the region.

According to the SOA some of the local outcomes agreed by the Community Planning Partners include:

  • "People across the Highlands have access to the services they need"
  • "Our communities take a greater role in shaping their future"
  • "Our natural heritage is protected and enhanced enabling it to deliver economic, health and learning benefits"
  • "Carbon emissions are reduced and communities are protected from the consequences of changing weather patterns"
  • "The impact of poverty and disadvantage is reduced"

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The future of Inverness West?

Tonight's Inverness West Ward Forum - at Kinmylies Church Hall, Kinmylies Way, Inverness, at 6.30pm - should prove very interesting.

According to the Council web site:

"There will be an opportunity to discuss how the development of very important areas of the City including the Bught, Torvean and Muirton can be brought forward. There will be a chance for anyone in attendance to have their say on the future of their Ward and Highland as a whole through an interactive discussion with members of the Development Plans Team." and,

"Malcolm Macleod, Development Plans Manager from the Council’s Planning and Development Service, will be attending the Ward Forum to find out what local people think the main issues are over the next 20 years will be and to explain more about how the Highland-wide Local Development Plan will be used to address these."

Mr Macleod touched on the subject of developments in Inverness West at last night's Culloden and Ardersier Ward Forum, mentioning how the current retail arrangements were not working and there was a chance to develop brown field sites at Muirtown.

With an application for bulky goods retail outstanding in the A96 Corridor near the retail park and only so many retailers to go round it will be interesting to see just what the Council has in mind for Muirtown.

Not strictly planning but rights are rights

National Consumer Week 2009 begins on Monday, 14th September and runs through to Friday, 18th September and is a national event organised by the Trading Standards Institute. This year’s theme is aimed at raising consumers’ awareness of their rights and how they can access information and advice through Consumer Direct and the UK European Consumer Centre.

Highland Trading Standards have taken the message a step further by joining with other agencies and services in a week long event at the Eastgate Centre, Inverness.

For more details click here to access the Highland Council web site

Council leaders to face public and interest group pressures?

From the BBC News web pages today:

Deep and prolonged cuts in the Scottish Government's budget will mean a "new age of austerity", an economic study has warned"

The article reports economists warning that:

"...ring-fencing some areas would "turn the screw" on every other sector that did not benefit from that concession." and,

"...council leaders they would face public and interest group pressures"

The article gives the conclusion to the report as being:

"A new age of austerity looms and very little time exists to prepare for it. Many of the potential areas for larger savings will take time to implement and so radical ideas too need to start to be addressed now."

To read the article click here