However, the study also presents evidence of a shortage of overall housing land supply in certain areas, notably Edinburgh and the Lothians. The supply of housing land in several key regions may continue to be compromised by delays and difficulties with the development planning system.
The report recommends clearer time limits on reaching decisions on development plans, with a general review of structure plans every five years. Housing land audits, prepared annually by local authorities in close consultation with housing developers, are seen as a key opportunity for keeping development plans relevant and up to date.
The findings and recommendations will serve as a starting point for the Scottish executive's forthcoming review of national planning policy on housing, National Planning Policy Guidelines (NPPG) 3.
1. The independent assessment of how well the planning system is enabling new housing development has been undertaken by a team from Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot Watt University.
It examines whether the planning system is providing sufficient quantities of suitable housing land, and whether this meets market demands, taking account of householder preferences. The study was led by Professor Glen Bramley, director of research at the school of planning and housing.
2. The main findings of the study are listed below:
There has been a shift in emphasis in the planning system with the presumption in favour of development being balanced against sustainability and social inclusion objectives
The broad thrust of policy supports concentrated development and the re-use of brownfield land and these aims are being achieved, although this may have to be balanced with future patterns of demand, growth and preferences.
Planning can be used to steer and redirect market demand particularly where demand is high and the overall policy stance is restrictive. There is great unevenness between areas in both the adequacy of supply and in the pressure of demand and this can affect the viability and likely speed of development.
The study found clear evidence of a shortfall in overall housing land in certain areas, notably in Edinburgh and the Lothians. There are uncertainties about household numbers and growth, particularly at a local scale of analysis; this will
affect the projection of housing land requirements.
Constraining the supply of land through the planning system does have an impact on the housing market and housing provision although the effect on house prices is not strong.
The development of brownfield land is restricted by the availability of resources for remediation and subsidy in some urban areas. The opportunities for brownfield development are more limited in other areas where there is very little suitable land.
Personal mobility and housing demand can spill over structure plan boundaries and there is a case for elements of a national or regional spatial development strategy.
In most areas there is a range of supply at different price levels. New build tends to reinforce the existing patterns of supply.
The net needs for additional affordable housing tend to be in areas of higher growth, higher prices and in some rural areas.
There are some concerns about the quality and design of new housing in Scotland, although whether professional views on this fully accord with popular preferences among house buyers is questionable.
3. The report is available priced£5.00 from The Stationery Office, tel 0131 228 4181. The full report and findings will shortly be available on the CRU pages on the Scottish executive website at www.scotland.gov.uk/cru.