Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Perhaps the Scottish Parliament should take a look at this

A few quotes from a very thought provoking report from the 'think tank' the 'Institute of Public Policy Research'.  If you agree with what is being put forward in the 'IPPR' report then it would seem (after a very quick read through) that whilst the main political parties in Scotland are set to support lots of land release if there is not an 'open' structure in the building industry the nation will still not provide the range of affordable, good quality homes that are needed. 

What do you think?  Are land costs too high here?  Is the Scottish building industry dominated by too few key players to the detriment of delivery?

Quotes from the IPPR Report:

"During the 1960s, the top 10 housing companies had eight to nine per cent of market share. In the 1970s, the top 10 housebuilders by market share rose to approximately 17 per cent in 1973. There then followed two recessionary periods of major consolidation. In the first post-recessionary period after 1974, the share of the top 10 builders went from 17 per cent in 1973 to 28 per cent in 1980. In the 1990s, the market share of the top 10 major housebuilders rose from 27 per cent in the late 1980s to 47 per cent in 2002. Both periods coincided with a significant shake-out of smaller players within the industry ."

"The falling size of new British homes occurs alongside a poor r ecord on product, innovation and design. The housing minister recently criticised UK housebuilders for producing an ‘identikit Legoland box’.12 The Barker report found that ‘housebuilders have little incentive to compete for consumers’ and have a ‘weak record of innovation’ (Barker 2003). While the leading academic on the sector notes that ‘British house[ ]building has
an exceptionally poor record at introducing innovation in design and production methods’ (Ball 1999, see also Neale 2009)."

"What is particularly interesting from a UK perspective is the example of the Netherlands, where a restrictive planning system and a highly populated country still manages to deliver large homes. Poor UK delivery cannot be entirely explained by population pressures and a tight planning regime.

"The UK house building sector also suf fers from a lack of economic resilience, which is highly striking when considered in an international context. This lack of resilience is not just a problem for the rates of UK house building, it is also a source of macroeconomic instability for the UK economy as a whole (OECD 2011b)."

"The drop in land values hit balance sheets hard. Under UK accounting rules, land values have to be written down immediately. In 2008 and 2009, large losses impacted on all of the major builders."

"The politics of local authorities make most reluctant to prioritise housing development, as 
anti-housing groups have greater clout at the ballot box than the more dispersed interests 

of those who need housing.83 Local authorities will be required to use need assessments 

to calculate their housing plans, but these assessments under estimate housing need, 

particularly in high demand housing markets. Local authorities are therefore likely to

release limited amounts of new land for house building, and only in order to satisfy central
government pressure. This will almost certainly be land that was likely to be designated as  
planning land over a short to medium time frame."

And the conclusion?

That the building sector reform must "... insulate land based risk..."

Ways forward?

"Part of this vision must be diversification. We are at low point in an 80-year tr end of
industry consolidation. This has decreased both the sector’s performance and its
economic resilience. On simple arithmetical terms alone, relying on the top 10 UK builders
will not deliver the increase in housing we need."

"Greater transparency is also needed so that the benefits and costs of development, which
currently fall unevenly (with some who bear costs receiving no benefit and vice versa), can be discussed more openly. Too often communities are kept in the dark about what prices are being paid and who is gaining from what is perceived as the loss of an important communal good."

"Planning reform must release more land suitable for development (putting a downwards
pressure on land prices), but it must also deliver reform of developers via changing who
has access to this land and how it is utilised. This requires not just a greater release of
land, but also a structural change to how land release happens."

Monday, 2 January 2012

Leftovers from 2011

The start of a new year but there is still a little unfinished business from the old one.

If you recall a few weeks back (30 Nov2011) APTSec sent an email to the then Minister for Local Government and Planning, Aileen Campbell.  The main text went:

Dear Minister

We have been totally overwhelmed by our experiences of planning over the last few years.  One of our members was in touch with PAS recently and Mr David Wood at PAS mentioned that you were keen to find out how the new planning act was performing.  For some time now we have felt that our input into the planning system is not meaningful and carries little weight.  The new planning reforms have not improved matters and in fact in our particular circumstances have made things worse. 

We desperately want to take a constructive part in the development of our community but feel marginalised and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the motivation to continue.  Please could you help us to find a way to restore our faith in the system and please could we send you a note of our experiences to date for your serious consideration.

I received the following reply on December 23rd  

Dear Mrs Stafford

Thank you for your e-mail of 30 November to the Minister for Local Government and Planning regarding your concerns about the planning system. I have been asked to respond.

 I am sorry that you feel disappointed with the system.

The Scottish Government are always keen to hear people’s views on the operation of the planning system.  We regularly run consultations on specific aspects of planning. Consultations can be viewed on the Scottish Government website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/publications/consult.

You can also subscribe to our e-alerts (http://register.scotland.gov.uk/Subscribe/Step1)
 to ensure that you are notified of planning news and developments, including details of consultations.

While consultations seek views on specific issues, we are always keen to hear from members of the public and interested community bodies about issues or concerns they may have with the planning system. Such views help to inform future work to improve the operation of the system. I would be very happy to speak to you or to consider any written concerns you may wish to raise.    

I hope this information is useful and look forward to hearing from you.

David  Reekie
Policy Manager
Planning Legislation & Performance
Area 2 J South
Victoria Quay

I have arranged to speak to Mr Reekie in the New Year and I will keep the blog updated.