Housing developers given more room to manoeuvre

Affordable housing contribution demands on developers have been reduced
Affordable housing contribution demands on developers have been reduced

House building in the Borders has been given a helping hand with Scottish Borders Council removing the burden of 
developer contributions on small-scale builders.

Any housing development of more than five units had to include affordable housing as well. That policy has now been changed and house builders will only pay a contribution in respect of affordable housing when building up to 16 homes.

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

In Berwickshire developer contributions go mainly towards new schools. In the central Borders it is schools and the Waverley Railway Line.

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.”

Development negotiator Ian Bowie 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.

Registered social housing landlords in the Borders have been reluctant to take up affordable houses where there are less than four units in a housing development.

Council officers report that the cost of providing less than four houses within a house building scheme can be a significant cost to developers.

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.