THE head of housebuilding giant Barratt in Scotland has said a doubling in demand seen for new homes by the firm in the past two years has highlighted the urgent need to accelerate the pace of construction.
The company, which has around 35 active housing developments in Scotland, has seen the number of people registering interest in its sites increase from just over 11,500 for the 2011/12 financial year to more than 24,500 in the first 47 weeks of 2013/14.
According to industry figures the number of new homes being built in Scotland last year slumped to its lowest level in almost 70 years with less than 15,000 new homes completed.
“A big issue is the time taken for land to be allocated for housing and then for proposed developments to get through the planning system,” said McLeod.
He noted that it was typically taking 12-18 months for a decision to be reached on planning proposals when he believed closer to nine months would be more appropriate.
Although the company worked closely with planning authorities and on consulting with the public, McLeod said he believed one of the issues was that councillors were reluctant to support land being allocated for housing in their wards.
“But it is important to realise that much more housing is needed across Scotland to meet demand and that housing developments bring significant investment to an area and improvements to local infrastructure.”
McLeod said although the Help to Buy scheme had been a “game changer” in terms of helping people get on the housing ladder, Scotland was currently well behind where it needs to be in terms of housing supply. He cited the launch of one of Barratt’s latest developments in Inverurie, which saw more than 1,000 potential buyers register interest in the development, with people queuing overnight before the first homes went on sale.
As well as schemes to help buyers, McLeod said the continuing increase being seen in the number of households in Scotland was adding to demand for homes. Projections show that the number of households in Scotland is expected to increase from 2.36 million to 2.89 million between 2010 and 2035, an increase of 23 per cent.
The lack of land allocated for housing is seen as a major issue for the industry and according to figures from Homes for Scotland only six of the country’s 32 local authorities have in place the required five-year effective land supply to support housing.
Some industry commentators believe Scotland needs to double the amount of land immediately available for development.
Last month a “presumption” in favour of new developments was announced by the Scottish Government as part of a major drive to boost economic growth and house-building.
However, firms seeking to build homes, wind farms and other sites will have to show they are sustainable and environmentally friendly or face being rejected under the new planning framework.