SBC told to find sites for new houses

Following a protracted examination of Scottish Borders Council’s local development plan (LDP), a report has concluded there is shortfall of 916 plots to meet future housing requirements in the region.

There is a shortfall of housing plots in the Borders.
There is a shortfall of housing plots in the Borders.

A team of three reporters from the Scottish Government, which has been scrutinising the land-use blueprint for the past year, wants the council to identify these sites within the next 12 months.

However, the recommendation for the extra units – on top of the 9,000 plots already earmarked in the LDP – falls well short of the expressed aspirations of the private construction sector.

The reporters had considered a submission from Homes for Scotland (HFS), the umbrella organisation representing the housebuilding industry, which felt insufficient land had been allocated to realistically meet future demand. HFS claimed that shortfall was between 3,250 and 3,750 units.

It was an argument supported by a number of local building firms, who believed the council’s proposals had not taken full account of market demand factors or the land requirements for affordable housing.

In defence of the plan’s housing land allocations, the council said it provided a generous and effective five-year supply of land within each of the region’s four housing market areas to meet demand.

“The industry is unable to provide robust and persuasive evidence to support the position beyond their own sites and have chosen to disengage,” stated the council’s submission.

“We remain open to meeting with house building colleagues for a constructive discussion about housebuilding in the Borders.”

The just-published examination report represents a compromise position amid claims and counter-claims.

The council will now consider the ramifications of the 1,138-page report on a plan due to be ratified by Scottish ministers next year.

Meeting the requirement to identify the extra housing plots will involve further public consultation. The reporters suggest the council should “prepare and adopt supplementary guidance aimed at redressing the shortfall”.

This would provide “an opportunity to undertake a detailed assessment of the environmental and other impacts of identifying additional housing sites.”