ROSEMARY Goring (“Politicians and developers must respect our greenbelt”, The Herald, October 4) gives an unbalanced view on the subject of housing developments on farmland and demonstrates a classic example of nimbyism.

In planning terms there is a distinct difference between land which is officially classified as “greenbelt” with its associated strict controls and restrictions, and land which is “greenfield” – generally farmland in the countryside which has not previously had any form of development on it.

Rightly, she prefers the use of “brownfield” land, but as correctly stated this often involves high remediation and ground preparation costs. Sometimes such land is not situated where demand from potential home owners and occupiers exists. With a few exceptions these brownfield sites are often small, tight sites which encourage higher-flatted developments over many storeys.

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Defence of the “greenbelt rings” around existing settlements can generate very high property prices within the protected towns and cities and creates satellite expansion of more affordable houses well outwith the hotspots. This is seen, for example, in East, Mid, and West Lothian with large housing developments up to 20 miles distant from the houseowners’ places of work in the city of Edinburgh. A similar secondary market exists around Aberdeen in rural Deeside, Donside and beyond. This phenomenon is wasteful in time and energy, with commuters often travelling in congested, slow-moving traffic burning extra fuel adding to environmental problems and road safety risks.

All cities, towns and villages started life as small settlements at a strategic location such as near the sea, at a river confluence, at a crossroads, or beside a natural resource, and then grew organically over the centuries to become concentrated centres of mass population running sometimes into millions of people. What right have we in 2017 to lift the drawbridge and prevent any further outward expansion?

The population is growing and the demand for new housing is ever increasing. Mentioned again only this week by the Prime Minister, the Government sets annual targets for the housebuilding industry to provide hundreds of thousands of new homes. In recent years these targets have never been met, often with shortfalls of up to 50 per cent. Planning delays and restrictions, including protection of the greenbelt, greenfields and other rural land, are some of the factors contributing to this failure to meet national targets.

Whilst there is a general desire to defend the countryside it should be noted that only four per cent of the country’s land mass has been urbanised.

I advocate better land use planning, controlled release of greenfields, and a form of land development tax. This levy would be imposed on farmland owners who benefit hugely from the massive uplift (sometimes up to 100-fold) on the value of their land once consent for change of use from agricultural to residential is granted. This revenue would be ring-fenced to remediate, in parallel, some of the difficult brownfield sites and prepare them for new development, including housing.

Robin M Brown,

Buchanan Street,

Milngavie.

ALISTAIR Stewart (Letters, October 2) says "communities" should decide the way their areas should be planned. How such "communities" are to be defined is not explained. Most people live in extensive suburbs and know only a tiny percentage of the others who also do. Many of their contacts live in other places. Would he include, for example, the Moslem and Sikh communities?

The planning system involves requires more public consultation than others but only a minority respond, Most who do are middle-aged or elderly. They tend to oppose changes which might affect their personal welfare. The proportion of these who vote is far higher than with younger ones. Most members of community councils are over 50.

The generation gap has a key role in planning debates. What is reported as conflict between communities and developers is often really one between those who own homes and those who don't. Very few objections are evidence-based or have any real relation to the environment.

Clearly many young people will not be able to get homes in or near the areas where they grew up. This will have negative consequences for family life – for example, with the relationship between children and grandparents.

Mr Stewart wants communities to be allowed to appeal against bad decisions. But what is bad for some may be good for others (providing a school within safe walking distance for most pupils may damage the amenity of nearby homes, for example).

Decisions on appeals are made by civil servants who are required to apply official policies and the law. They are, anyway, as fallible as the rest of us. There is no reason to assume that any appeal will be upheld.

It is mistaken to compare rights of appeal by owners of property with those of objectors. People have a right to appeal against decisions on their own income tax or benefits assessments and on refusals to grant asylum applications. Others have no right to appeal against these.

If third parties were able to appeal planning approval, only a tiny number would do so and often for reasons of self-interest. Retailers and builders could appeal approvals given to their competitors. Even if these failed the delays caused could justify the cost of the action.

Planning problems are inextricably linked with health, housing education, social inequality, economic development and climate change. Dealing with them will need much more critical and creative thinking than now exists. It is doubtful whether most of our elected persons or professionals have the capacity to do this.

The actions advocated by Mr Stewart would do more harm than good.

Alan Mathieson,

293 Glasgow Road,

Perth.

MANY older Scots are stuck in a housing trap. Despite the increased profile and prioritisation from politicians, the housing market does not fully meet the demands from older people to downsize into suitable retirement accommodation.

The upcoming Planning Bill provides an opportunity to address this key ask from Scotland’s ageing population.

Given the increasing number of older Scots living alone with a range of long-term care needs, we believe the legislation should set clear targets for the delivery of older people’s housing and incentivise movement into appropriate accommodation - identifying sites close to shops, services and transport links in towns and town centres.

In addition, we would like to see a duty that promotes better housing for older people in local authority development plans, and housing assessment that supports people living in their homes for as long as possible.

This bill has the potential to support an increase in supply of the right types of housing in the right places for older people, and crucially, in a manner that involves communities in the process.

It is in this spirit that we are calling for the upcoming planning reforms to support the development of older people’s housing in Scotland.

Keith Robson, Charity Director (Deputy Chief Executive), Age Scotland; Jonathan Fair, Regional Managing Director, McCarthy and Stone; Tom Berney, Chair, Scottish Older People’s Assembly; Richard Jennings, Managing Director, Places for People,

c/o 4 Eyre Place, Edinburgh.