Thursday, 8 October 2009

Real change for rural housing is needed

I took the opportunity in the Rural Housing debate in chamber today to call for an end to rural clearances and a return to rural re-settlement. The debate was prompted by the rural housing report of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee, encouraging the Scottish Government to encourage more housing in rural areas.

I am glad that the matter had been brought to the fore under an SNP administration. As in the last Parliament myself and Richard Lochead, the now Cabinet Secretary for Rural affairs, were blocked by other committee members for introducing such a report.

Real change to the planning system is needed to help deliver more homes in rural areas. When local plans come up for production, the proposals are put forward by the planners, who have an holistic view— in theory —about how settlements ought to operate, and why it is more economic to have people living in small areas so that dwellings can be serviced more easily. We have to challenge that view; the SNP believes that there are issues around the way in which village envelopes are currently structured, and that has to change. Why should a person have to have a job in agriculture to live and work in the countryside? We must find a way around that.

Arran, for one, is a prime example of why change is needed for the whole of Scotland…One applicant there is trying to get a plot for his son to live and start a business. The plot is based 10 minutes from Brodick pier. North Ayrshire Council has denied the application as they stated that they did not think that the site was 'appealing' enough for the applicant. It's remoteness and the use of mechanical transport would distract from the appeal of the area and it would set a precedent which would be 'undesirable'.

Rural affordable housing has been allowed to become further out of reach to the general population for generations. This report is a start and I welcome it. However, there needs to be greater practical change in planning departments for a real difference to be felt and made. Repopulating rural areas is something which will breath new life into the country and is an aspiration worth achieving.

Comments and thoughts always welcome on this page!

1 comment:

gealbhan said...

excellent! I couldn't agree more. The situation in parts of caithness is getting dire in respect of the over cautious attitude towards rural development by the local planners.