It’s a well known fact that, after the lengthy process of finding the perfect plot on which to build your dream home, getting planning permission for it is the next big hurdle. Few developments, even small ones for the solitary self-builder, go through without any objections either from neighbours, local organisations (especially environmental ones for rural plots), or the planning authority itself, and it’s always very interesting to look at the thinking behind the objections and restrictions.
One development currently in the pipeline in Scotland has given us an fascinating opportunity to see both of sides of the story.
A group of friends got together as the Inverdruie Sawmill Cooperative to put forward a proposal to build 6 homes on land at the site of a former sawmill on Rothiemurcus Estate, near Aviemore. The houses built on 4 of the 6 available building plots will be ‘affordable housing’ for the group, and the other 2 plots will be sold on the open market.
Two newspapers ran coverage of the development in the Cairngorms – the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald, and the Press & Journal. The Herald ran with the positive headline “Pioneering low cost housing plans for the Cairngorms”, while the Press chose the more negative “Six new homes to be built in Highland beauty spot amid environmental concerns”. The Herald focused on the fact that this could provide a new model for affordable housing in Scotland, including the restrictions on the 4 affordable homes which mean that the self-builders have to sell the homes at a fixed price set by the housing trust and not for profit on the open market, making them affordable in perpetuity. There was only the briefest mention of any objections to the development. The Press, on the other hand, directed its attention to the potential environmental damage to woodland in the area of the proposed development, quoting concerned members of Woodland Trust Scotland and Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, using phrases such as “aghast at this decision” and “an extremely disturbing precedent”.
There is no doubt that this model of small ‘friendly’ co-operative self-build housing provides a way for the less well-off to buy land and build their own homes. On the other hand, will the drive for such housing really create an issue for the local environment, or are the 2 organisations mentioned in the paragraph above just being NIMBYs? Why not have a read of the articles and decide for yourselves.