Policy Summary: Scottish government advice for councils determining build-to-rent developments

Policy: Planning Delivery Advice: Build-To-Rent

Fountainbridge, Edinburgh: build to rent
Fountainbridge, Edinburgh: build to rent

Issued by: Scottish Government

Issue date: 28 September 2017

Background: This planning delivery advice offers guidance to local planning authorities on how to deal with purpose-built build-to-rent private rented sector schemes. According to the document, the advice "may be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications and appeals" and replaces a letter on build-to-rent sent by Scotland's chief planner in October 2015 that encouraged "a flexible approach" build-to-rent projects.

Key points: The Scottish Government sees the build-to-rent sector as an opportunity to boost housing supply, according to the advice note. Planning authorities can play a "crucial role" in supporting growth by adopting a "positive approach" to such developments.

Build-to-rent schemes are characterised by "single institutional ownership and professional on-site management", offering self-contained individual units with access to communal facilities. The advice notes that schemes can be lowor high-density and involve conversions of existing buildings as well as new build schemes.

Authorities are asked to consider the opportunities that build-to-rent can offer. The document says these include: increasing the speed of housing delivery, supporting economic growth by providing accommodation for the workforce, securing developments of high design quality, and acting as a catalyst for future development.

Councils are advised that build-to-rent schemes use a different financial model to open market housing, as they rely on a longer-term rental income stream and the pace of unit delivery is typically quicker. The planning system should be "responsive" to these differences, says the note, which can "present challenges in relation to development viability". Consequently, councils should consider a flexible approach to planning obligations, such as through phased payments.

Where affordable housing contributions are required, planning authorities are asked to consider options such as provision of units at mid-market rents, where there is identified need. Commuted sums or off-site provision may be appropriate in some cases. Provisions to keep build-to-rent units in the rented sector in the long term "should be explored", says the note, through an agreement between the authority and the developer.

The advice notes that inclusion of shared facilities such as communal areas, gyms and co-working spaces in build-to-rent schemes may require a departure from standard practice in areas such as design, density and space standards. Councils are advised to be "flexible" in such cases as long as "the overall quality of development remains appropriate".

Masterplans and local design guidance, says the note, can provide opportunities for authorities to set out how factors such as the provision of communal space and facilities may be taken into account in planning decisions.

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