Nov 212011

Jim McKinnon, Scotland’s Chief Planner, has written to Scotland’s planning authorities clarifying  the Scottish Government’s views on the use of conditions or planning obligations to restrict the occupancy of new rural housing.

Occupancy restrictions are typically used in Scotland to limit the occupancy of new houses in the countryside either to people whose main employment is with a farming or other rural business that requires on-site residency, or to people with a local connection. Sometimes new houses are tied to particular land holdings, preventing them being sold separately.  Such restrictions have been applied either through planning conditions or Section 75 planning obligations.

The letter draws attention to the problems such restrictions cause :  people finding it difficult to get a mortgage to buy a house with an occupancy restriction, or selling the house.

These restrictions add complexity (and potentially expense) into the process of gaining consent for a new house.  They can also be intrusive, resource-intensive and difficult to monitor and enforce.

The letter advises that the Scottish Government believes that occupancy restrictions are rarely appropriate and so should generally be avoided.  It goes on to advise that normal planning considerations should be used to evaluate the acceptability of a housing proposal :  for example  its anticipated impact on road safety, landscape quality or natural heritage, and in some circumstances it may be appropriate for applicants to be asked to make a land management or other business case.

Where sites are considered unsuitable for new housing, more acceptable locations will often exist elsewhere on the same landholding or nearby, and planning authorities can assist applicants by advising where these are.