Ruth Davidson will tomorrow deliver a keynote speech setting out a series of fresh ideas to solve Scotland’s housing crisis.
In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research in Edinburgh, the Scottish Conservative leader will warn that Scotland faces a housing crisis not seen since the aftermath of the Second World War.
She will declare that radical solutions are required to ensure that young people in their 20s and 30s once again have a realistic chance of buying a home, without having to rely on support for their parents.
In her speech, she will propose:
- Support for a new generation of new towns in Scotland
- Backing for a new Housing Infrastructure Agency in Scotland to support major local developments and streamline planning
- Promotion of the Housing and Infrastructure portfolio to cabinet rank in the Scottish Government
- A clear plan to ensure Scotland returns to building 25,000 homes a year, of all tenure
The call for a series of new towns was first made by the independent Scottish Housing Commission, set up by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, two years ago.
New villages such as Chapelton outside Aberdeen – where landowners, developers and the local authority have come together to design a new community – have led the way in demonstrating how to build local consent for new housing.
The Scottish Conservatives are now calling for the Scottish Government to do more to encourage similar developments, and for new powers be given to local authorities over new town development if necessary.
The party will also press the Scottish Government to make housing a key strategic priority, with a housing minister in cabinet, and a Housing Infrastructure Agency on hand to help plan the necessary roads, and rail and public amenities required for new developments.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will say:
“The last time we had a housing crisis on this scale was in the aftermath of World War II.
“Back then, politicians had the courage to act in order to get building. We now need to find the same courage to address today’s needs.
“Market failure is depriving thousands of young people one of the most basic opportunities in society: the ability to buy and own your home.
“Our mailbags as MSPs are now full of concerns about housing: from people on the waiting list for a council house, to couples unable to afford a starter home.
“We need to do something about it.”
On the proposal for a new generation of new towns, she will say:
“A report for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has proposed that as many as six to
eight new communities are required across Scotland.
“It is time seize the moment – and look at a series of new generation new towns.
“We are already seeing some beautiful new villages and towns springing up in Scotland which have put high quality design, affordable homes, and community values at the heart of their development. That’s the way to go.
“If we can learn from the ambition of the post-war generation, we can learn from their mistakes too – by, for example, putting the needs of people and communities first.
“By acknowledging that we are not just building housing, we are in the job of creating homes, nurturing communities, and adding to the beauty of our country.
“Because if new developments complement the local environment and avoid the disastrous design choices of the past we can all get behind a new generation of towns and villages across the country.”
On a new Housing Infrastucture Agency, she will add:
“We would support the creation a new national Housing Infrastructure Agency to be tasked with delivering the basic infrastructure – the roads and public services – around which new housing can be built.
“I don’t think most people are natural Nimbys.
“Most often, people’s concern about new housing is the concern that, if a thousand new homes are built nearby, then that’s a thousand more cars clogging up the drive to work, and more pressure on school places, and on GP clinics.
“A single Agency could be called on by local authorities to help them tackle these infrastructure challenges.”
And on a new Housing and Infrastructure Minister, she declares:
“What better way to signal strong government backing for this new agency, than by actually putting a Housing and Infrastructure Minister in the Scottish cabinet.
“If we really do want housing to become a national priority, then the man or woman delivering it should be at the cabinet table.
“To be clear, I am not talking about taking planning control out of the hands of local authorities and local communities.
“This is about national government providing the strategic direction that allows local communities to press ahead.
“It could restore trust in new housing.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Ruth will also spell out her party’s direction for the coming year, as Holyrood returns to business next week.
She will say:
“My resolution over the coming 12 months, as leader of the main opposition party in Scotland, is to try and turn a page.
“This coming year is the first in Scotland since 2013 when we have not been fighting an election or a referendum.
“Indeed, this coming political spell in Scotland – with no elections due until 2021 – is the first such period since the middle part of the last decade.
“That is an opportunity.
“All over Scotland this summer, I’ve been speaking to people and getting a pretty clear message.
“Everyone accepts that Brexit is going to dominate for the coming few months as the negotiations with Europe begin in earnest.
“But there is also a yearning among many to see a political debate in Scotland focus more heavily on the bread and butter issues that matter to us here at home.
“So while we in the Scottish Conservatives have rightly complained that the SNP has failed to focus on the day job, we need to demonstrate our wish to set our sights on that task too.
“And that is my clear priority as we begin a new parliament next week.”
Notes to editors:
The Scottish Housing Commission, set up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, backed the creation of a new series of Scottish new towns.
It also called for the Housing Minister to be elevated to cabinet rank.
Its full report is available here:
New towns facts and figures
The original new towns programme in Britain saw 32 new urban developments being constructed which today provide homes for some 2.5 million people.
In Scotland, five new towns were constructed: East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Cumbernauld, Livingston and Irvine.
The latter was the final development to be designated, on November 9th 1966 – almost exactly half a century ago.
How would new towns be set up?
There is a cooperative model – ongoing right now– where landowners, developers and the local authority come together to build new projects. Examples include Chapleton outside Aberdeen, and Tornagrain outside Inverness. The Scottish Government should be doing more to facilitate similar schemes elsewhere in Scotland.
Alternatively, we could introduce new powers – as happened when New towns were first created – to create Development Corporations either run by Local Government alone, or with the private and voluntary sector.
What would a next generation new town look like?
It could be an entirely new community – like Chapelton and Tornagrain. Or it could be an ‘annex’ attached to an existing major conurbation. Crucially, new developments must learn from the mistakes of the past and prioritise good design and planning – with local amenities, good quality housing, and community facilities put first.
Where should new towns be located?
A national Housing Agency and local government should work together to identify areas of need – but it is clear that right across Scotland there is a need to provide more housing adjacent to major conurbations. For example, in Edinburgh, it is estimated that house prices could rise by 23% by 2021, and in Glasgow by 15%. There is therefore a clear need to identify development opportunities in the central belt to ensure that property prices remain affordable for first time buyers and people on low to middle incomes