Council make move to help region’s construction sector

Stuart Bell
Stuart Bell

The council has taken steps to stimulate house building and remove a burden on small developers in the Scottish Borders.

On Monday, councillors agreed to amend the developer contribution policy, altering the threshold at which developers have to provide affordable units within a site.

A building worker working on a new house.

A building worker working on a new house.

It means house builders will only pay a contribution in respect of affordable housing when building up to 16 homes.

The previous policy sought affordable homes on-site when developments were for five units or more.

The thresholds for other contributions, which go towards various items, including play areas, traffic infrastructure and schools, have been retained.

The move has been welcomed by Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development.

He said: “I think this achieves an appropriate balance.

“It provides the best opportunity to maintain a way of financing infrastructure, but reduces the cost to small builders on small sites in the Borders.”

Ian Bowie, development negotiator, said that the low threshold for on-site affordable housing provision had been “highly onerous” on small developers when not associated with registered social landlords.

Councillor Michelle Ballantyne added: “I think this addresses a definite issue in a pragmatic way and balances the needs of the council, in terms of paying for infrastructure, with the needs of businesses to build effectively.”

Councillors also agreed that the planning department should implement a new way of working to speed up the planning process, relating to the drawing up of legal agreements, including those for developer contributions.

In a bid to ensure planning performance targets are met, officers will seek to draft up and discuss developer contributions earlier in the planning process.

Some unnecessary costs will be incurred when applications are subsequently refused, but the increased overall performance should mean the council avoids financial penalties from the Scottish Government for missing targets.