Delivering the homes and places that meet our future needs
This is one in a series of blogs written by members of the Housing & Place Delivery Forum (HPDF) – a CaCHE-led knowledge exchange initiative, which brings practitioners and industry experts together around a common goal: delivering more, high quality homes and creating places that work for everyone in Scotland. The blog adds to and builds on some of the key recommendations from our recent co-produced report, Delivering More Homes and Better Places: lessons from policy and practice in Scotland.
How can we deliver new homes in places close to services and amenities so that we can reduce our carbon footprint? This might sound a real challenge but with 11,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land in Scotland – twice the area of Dundee – there are lots of opportunities to redevelop land that blights many communities while delivering homes in neighbourhoods that encourage walking and cycling.
A recent report for CaCHE and the Scottish Land Commission, Delivering More Homes and Better Places, examined the role of land in delivering new housing and communities in Scotland. The starting point for the research are significant concerns about new housing in Scotland:
- we aren’t building enough homes to meet need and demand
- homes are unaffordable for many
- there is widespread criticism about the quality of many of the places we are creating
- new developments should reduce carbon emissions yet are often designed around car use
I want to focus on this last point and the concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood. This concept has become a popular contemporary name for compact places, where goods and services are within walking distance, creating a vibrant and diverse place. The benefits of such places are clear – they encourage active travel with its associated health benefits while providing access to services and amenities for all. Importantly, 20-minute neighbourhoods can cut car use, helping Scotland to meet our challenging emissions reductions targets.
Delivering More Homes and Better Places found that re-using land delivers clear benefits, providing homes close to employment and public transport. Two of the case studies featured in the report – the Anderston regeneration and the Commonwealth Games village, both in Glasgow – delivered high quality developments on brownfield land.
Perhaps most importantly, the report found that the creation of such new places remains the exception rather than the rule. Work for the Land Commission on land for housebuilding found that one impact of the 2007 recession was a loss of many of the SMEs who had delivered smaller brownfield and in-fill development, with a subsequent focus by volume housebuilders on large greenfield sites. That said, not all new development takes place on greenfield sites. Two recent developments by Cala in Edinburgh provided a mix of house types close to amenities but such schemes need to become standard if the benefits of the 20-minute neighbourhood are to be realised and if housing is to make its contribution to climate change targets.
The CaCHE study found that for the two Glasgow projects, the role played by the council in assembling the sites and shaping the development outcomes was crucial to the creation of a successful place. The report identifies a number of actions that would deliver better, more sustainable places, including:
- Local authorities playing a leading role in land assembly and placemaking, especially on larger sites
- A stronger focus on climate change in housing policy
- Close and early engagement with communities on the nature and location of development
Recent research for the Land Commission on Housing, Land and Placemaking in Europe found that the creation of quality homes and neighbourhoods was characterised by public agencies taking a leading role in land assembly and investing in infrastructure enabling works (with the infrastructure costs being funded from the land value). This allowed the public sector to shape places and influence key features, creating quality green and public space and limiting car use. All three of the European case studies redeveloped brownfield sites to provide new urban neighbourhoods close to existing amenities and transport links.
It is important to say that this approach is not about a public sector takeover – instead, it is about balancing the role of the market with public interest in order to deliver better places. In each of the European countries studied, the public and private sectors worked hand in hand to develop delivery plans – with the private sector playing an essential role in assessing scheme viability and delivering projects. The role of the public sector benefitted the private sector, reducing risk and speeding up delivery.
While much needs to be done to mainstream the delivery of low carbon developments and 20-minute neighbourhoods, Delivering More Homes and Better Places shows that it can be done. Close collaboration between the public and private sector is key.
Re-use of brownfield land is also essential – the Vacant and Derelict Land Task Force has set out a series of recommendations on turning these sites from a challenge to an opportunity, with housing one of the main end uses. While not all derelict sites will be suitable for housing (others could become greenspace), Scotland’s post-industrial legacy of brownfield sites provides an opportunity to deliver the homes and places that meet our future needs.
Photo: reproduced with permission of Stewart Stevenson Architects.
Views expressed by the author may not represent the views of CaCHE.
Date: January 20, 2021 2:29 pm
Author(s): David Stewart