No self-build plots enjoying East Lothian's views - Ogilvy Chalmers

‘Plots For Sale’ – But Not in East Lothian - October 13, 2016

This blog has been penned by Francis Ogilvy, Principal and Land agent, and Clive Cruickshank, Senior Architect, at Ogilvy Chalmers.

“Self-Build is a form of Affordable Housing” tweeted Angie Duran, Self-Build Officer of Glasgow City Council @GlasgowCC.

Is this an east / west divide between local authorities? We find no reference to promoting the idea in the newly published East Lothian Local Development Plan (LDP) Action Programme. When the former Director of Planning, Pete Collins, bemoaned the fact that we did not have more individual housing designs in the county, many of us had a ready answer!

It is noteworthy that the Scottish Government recently held a conference promoting Self-Build Housing. Looking on recently when researching a steading valuation, we were surprised, but not shocked, to see that there are no plots for sale listed on this site for East Lothian. Cross the county border and there are scores. Is this a debate worth having whilst the East Lothian LDP Action Programme is out for consultation till the end of October?

The plan has been a significant focus for our council planning team and they should be applauded for their hard work in publishing this document. The strength of your applause, however may depend on whether or not you agree with the LDP and how policies will be delivered.

The Action Programme certainly highlights just how integrated the various sectors of the economy are. That is until the countryside is taken account of. If you are within an area zoned for employment, have a business proposition, or you live in the west of the county, development is seemingly encouraged. Elsewhere, and this surely most of the county, the old protections against change remains or is even strengthened.

For some, this will be seen as a good thing, providing a curb on poor development.

More accurately this type of policy provides a curb to the majority of development in the key sector of new private housing within the county. This type of blanket restriction only serves to stifle the type of innovative, unique and much lauded design which is coming to the forefront in many parts of the country, notably at the moment in the Highlands and Islands.

For many years our countryside has been one of this county’s chief assets, and, along with its village and farming communities, so it remains. As our average population age increases, however, the availability of good quality, affordable housing for younger families in rural areas decreases. A change in housing policy may be the only way in which our countryside and rural areas can avoid the seemingly inevitable decline in younger populations, demonstrated by waning rural school rolls.

Would it be so bad if dotted around, adjacent to many of these small communities, we built clusters of new houses? If we are content to allow national house builders to build 50+ units every 20 years filling an entire field; how about five units every two years built by a local builder? This more flexible approach to policy would help assist our rural communities through the provision of new and much needed housing.

In addition, the smaller nature of these types of development would help support local jobs in the construction industry and keep money within the local economy.

We all support ‘appropriate development’ – who would argue against it? We are also all in favour of good design. However, rather than having it being limited by a stifling blanket policy, we would like to see it encouraged by the Local Authority and evaluated in a more balanced, case-by-case manner. New housing could even be seen as an asset on the landscape, benefitting from marvelous views rather than hidden from view.

Ultimately we need to see good quality, affordable rural housing become available more often. A more flexible policy approach can only improve this, and our rural communities may once again have the opportunity to grow organically – as they’ve done so successfully in the past.

Can we make now that time again?

Please share your thoughts in this debate by going to the Proposed East Lothian Local Development Plan Action Plan. Alternatively, email Francis Ogilvy or Clive Cruickshank and we’ll be pleased to collect views and pass these on.

At Ogilvy Chalmers we describe ourselves as ‘The Compleat Property Company’ because we are a multi-discipline team of property professionals who provide a complete service. Our modern property solutions are delivered with good old-fashioned professionalism, hence Compleat, the old spelling of complete. See more on our Estate Agency, Surveying and Architecture services.