Scottish landowners face cap on CPO payments in simplified planning areas

The committee tasked with scrutinising Scotland's emerging planning bill has agreed an amendment to the legislation which would allow councils to compulsorily purchase land at existing use value in designated simplified planning areas.

Scottish Parliament. Image credit: Matthew Ross
Scottish Parliament. Image credit: Matthew Ross

Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee agreed an amendment to the Scotland (Planning) Bill which is intended to ensure that councils should not pay inflated prices for sites purchased through compulsory purchase orders (CPO). 

When sites are bought through a CPO, the amendment states that "compensation payable is to be calculated ... taking no account of any value that is attributable to the fact that the carrying out of development is authorised by the scheme".

The amendment would only apply in masterplan consent areas - previously known as simplified development zones - which are intended to frontload scrutiny of potential development sites and deliver planning consents through the zoning of land.

Proposed by Andy Wightman, an MSP with the Scottish Green Party, the amendment is one of a series currently being considered as the bill makes its way through the second stage of the parliamentary scrutiny process.

The committee also approved an amendment which would require landlords to seek planning permission for properties to be let on a short-term basis, in an effort to combat the impact of flat-sharing websites such as Airbnb.

Under the measure, local councils would be allowed to determine such applications on the basis of local policy. The changes would not affect homeowners or occupiers who only rent out a single room.

Describing the CPO amendment, Wightman said: "With average house prices seven and a half times the average salary, we must take every opportunity we can to help people afford to buy or rent a home.

"Giving local councils the power to buy land at existing use value rather than the inflated value caused by planning permission is an important tool in the box."

However, Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning at housebuilding inudstry body Homes for Scotland, described the CPO policy as "poorly thought through" and "premature".

"Whilst it has been clear since stage one of the bill that the opposition parties were keen to get the words ‘land value capture’ into legislation, it is disappointing they’ve done it in a way which seeks to disadvantage one set of landowners over others - as the proposed approach will only affect people whose land will, at some stage in the future, be designated by a council as a ‘masterplan consent area’," she said.

"Today’s amendment has the unfortunate hallmarks of making law for the sake of it, not because it is genuinely expected to help deliver more homes for the people of Scotland."

The Scottish Land Commission, a non-departmental public body established in 2017 to examine issues of land use, ownership and taxation, is currently considering broader proposals for land value capture.

In August this year the commission proposed powers for planning authorities to trigger the sale of vacant sites to the highest bidder.

The Planning (Scotland) Bill forms part of a wide-ranging package of planning reforms proposed by the Scottish Government. Scottish ministers have promised a review of the National Planning Framework and policies to support the creation of a "world-leading digital planning service".

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