Scotland’s housing delivery challenge

Scotland’s housing delivery challenge provides a focus around which the public and private sectors and local communities must come together, says Kerri McGuire, Partner at Graham + Sibbald.


Planning departments across Scotland face a major backlog of work as a result of the pressures that Covid-19 has put on the system. It hasn’t helped that they have also been inundated with an avalanche of requests from homeowners looking to make alterations on their properties (accounting for 42% of all applications submitted in 2020/21).

The Scottish Government has recently published their annual planning performance statistics which indicate that major applications are taking on average 41 weeks to determine, in comparison to the statutory determination period of 16 weeks. The determination period for major housing applications is higher with applications taking on average 54.8 weeks.

This almost inevitable bottleneck just adds to the planning challenge that has been set out in the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy. This outlines plans to deliver 100,000 affordable and more sustainable homes over the next decade. The housing strategy does not identify a similar target for private sector new build development.

One of the key hurdles to the delivery of much needed housing is resolving the many differing opinions that exist around housing land allocations and supply.

The emerging National Planning Framework 4 will identify housing supply targets and where new housing should take place. The housing strategy aims to support communities to take an active role in place-making. It is proposed that this will be achieved through Local Place Plans. According to the Scottish Government, such plans offer the ‘opportunity for a community led, but collaborative, approach to creating great local places’.

The Scottish Government recently consulted on the proposed regulations for Local Place Plans. However, there are still many unanswered questions relating to how the process will be adequately resourced and what will be done if there are significant differences between the aspirations of local communities and the reality of market forces and local planning policy

The 2040 housing strategy prioritises the development of vacant and derelict land, repurposing existing properties and locating housing closer to services within 20-minute neighbourhoods. The housing strategy also seeks to deliver homes in town centres. This focus on re-developing brownfield sites is not without its challenges. Such vacant and derelict land often needs significant remediation work to make it suitable for residential use.  Other issues can include complex land ownership, market demand, high development costs and financing requirements.

Overall, the housing strategy seeks to deliver housing in locations where people want to live. In particular, the Scottish Government recognises the unique challenges faced by rural and island communities and are proposing to take specific action to support housing delivery in these areas and help stem rural depopulation.

All of the challenges highlighted above will require innovative thinking and a focused, collaborative approach. However, it is clear that there is a strong consensus across all key stakeholder groups in Scotland that the challenge of Housing to 2040 and delivering more housing is one that must be met.

Unpicking the planning issues relating to housing delivery in Scotland will be just one of the topics discussed at the upcoming Graham + Sibbald webinar on the Future of Scottish Housebuilding. It promises to be a thought provoking event that should encourage collaborative working and spur on positive change.

To find out more about our upcoming webinar, which will be held on Thursday 16th September, please email