East Lothian – An area-based study of a higher value and less affordable market
The housing market in East Lothian has some different challenges to other rural areas in Scotland. Land and house prices are higher than average, with higher proportions of both the wealthiest households and the most financially stretched. Housing in East Lothian is therefore less affordable for large sections of the community.
The Spatial Plan Strategy supports sustainable growth for settlements that already have infrastructure capacity, and the main settlements are seeing significant growth. Some small villages have housing allocations in the SES plan but in the main new-build market housing is restricted in rural areas and the smallest settlements, other than in specific circumstances. (The SES plan is the South East Scotland plan that covered the Edinburgh Housing Market area and included Edinburgh, East, West and Midlothian, part of Fife and the Borders.)
In 2012, East Lothian Rural Voice was set up by rural stakeholders, including landowners and managers, to look for a partnership way forward with East Lothian Council for more investment in the countryside. Rural Voice felt that development restrictions were having a negative impact on the rural economy and society of East Lothian, and that more flexible planning policies were needed. They held a series of collaborative workshops and produced a report recommending changes. However, Planning Officers were not convinced that other members of the community shared this desire for more flexibility, and very few policies changed.
Benefits and Lessons Learned
The Rural Voice report and process could be a ‘subject-specific’ Local Place Plan style of approach, and it has partly given rise to the new Affordable Housing Exception site policy. (Exception sites are granted planning where the site is to meet an identified need for affordable housing.) The policy is yet to be fully tested but holds significant potential if successful and could be replicated in other parts of Scotland.
Find Out More
More detail about the challenges and positive outcomes from this project are included in more detail in the report 'The Role of Land in Enabling New Housing Supply in Rural Scotland.'