I continue to campaign for social rented housing to be built to tackle the housing crisis in Scotland.
Alongside this we need to see the levels of new build for all sectors, including home ownership, rise to pre-recession levels, which sadly is not happening. The Scottish Government have brought forward a new planning bill to address many issues they think are stalling new developments but in my view they completely miss the key barriers.
I wrote to the First Minster using Fife, and a specific site at Kelty (photo above), as an example to highlight one of the big barriers to new build developments and the text of that letter is below:
Letter to First Minister
I am writing to raise with you the ongoing issue of proposed new housing being stalled on the grounds that there are no monies available for frontloading infrastructure requirements for education, health and social good.
You may recall I raised a specific case in my regional constituency with you a number of weeks ago. The development is for 900 new houses to be built on land adjacent to the M90 motorway at Kelty. The proposal has broad support from the community provided there is provision for education and a health centre facility put in place.
The company, I&H Brown Limited, have agreed to a Section 75 for a new primary school at a cost of around £8 million. However, the problem is that they say they will not have the funds until the first 90 houses have been built. The council have said that there is no spare capacity in the existing two primary schools and one nursery school.
Neither the council nor the company have the money to frontload the school so the application has stalled. The company tell me they had worked on the assumption that the application would have been determined by last Christmas and here we are about to celebrate Christmas in a few weeks’ time and they are no further forward because of the inability to frontload the funding for the school.
When I raised this issue with you, you stated, and I quote:
“There are often limitations around infrastructure when there is a desire for housing developments to go ahead. That is why the Scottish Government introduced the Housing Infrastructure Loan Fund, which is specifically designed to deal with those limitations and bring about the provision of the infrastructure—whether that is schools, hospitals or health services—that is often required to support new housing development”.
On checking I found that schools and other social infrastructure are specifically excluded from the housing infrastructure fund. So, whilst I do agree that this fund is a good thing, there is probably not enough money in it and, more importantly, it specifically excludes schools and health, the very things I am raising.
I met with the Head of Economy, Planning and Employability at Fife Council in October and he confirmed to me that there are four such projects in Fife for large scale housing development which have stalled because of this issue.
The Chief Executive of Fife Council responded to me in October and said that the council have set up a working group to look at the challenges of educational infrastructure for new housing developments and have made £5 million available to assist where strategic housing investments are being held up.
This is all good but will not on its own address even the Kelty site.
Homes for Scotland have also written to me to say that the largest issue that is stalling new house building is the lack of upfront cash for education facilities.
I would be most grateful if you could look at this issue as all the evidence seems to suggest that this is the greatest obstacle to new housing development in Fife and also, I think, across the country. I will also write to the Minster for Local Government and Housing along similar lines as I do think we must find a way forward to allow developers access to loans to address, in particular, the education infrastructure requirements that go with new largescale housing developments.