Publication - Research and analysis

Housing land audits: research project

Published: 17 Jan 2019

Assessment of housing land audits (HLAs) for consistency and compliance, their potential for standardisation and their role in development plan delivery.

50 page PDF

996.8 kB

50 page PDF

996.8 kB

Housing land audits: research project
1 Introduction

50 page PDF

996.8 kB

1 Introduction


1.1 The Scottish Government instructed Ryden LLP, supported by Brodies LLP, to research housing land audits (HLAs). The project was commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Building Standards Division on behalf of the Planning and Architecture Division.

1.2 The project assesses current HLAs and HLA practice for all Scottish planning authorities. It considers the consistency and compliance of HLAs, and their potential for standardisation, as well as their role in development plan delivery.

1.3 The findings of the research may inform a more standardised approach to HLAs by planning authorities, potentially through future policy and guidance. The overarching aim is to help HLAs improve the planning system and deliver housing targets.

Research Context

1.4 Housing Land Audits monitor completions then programme future house building. They assess the adequacy of the housing land supply and in particular, whether it satisfies the minimum five-year requirement set out in policy. There is an increasing focus on development delivery within the planning system. HLAs directly inform planning, market and infrastructure decision-making, and thus support development delivery. In particular for delivery, the link between HLAs and Action Programmes, to understand the potential for site progression through to development is critical.

1.5 House building rates are widely reported to be suppressed. Housing continues to be the dominant development sector. However, fragmentation of the development and infrastructure sectors, the aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and the monumental shift from public to private provision since the 1980s - noting however the current major affordable housing programme in Scotland - may conspire to make house building more complex, slower and more selective. This report does not examine the housing delivery system but does note where the HLA research is affected by this wider context.

1.6 HLAs began as monitoring tools. However, through the national planning policy requirement for a continuous five-year effective land supply, the increasing focus on delivery, and the housing sector conditions described above, HLAs have assumed a major role in the planning and development system. The findings of an HLA can lead to the release of additional housing sites, or refusal of planning permission for unallocated sites. Thus the consistency and accuracy of HLAs is not simply a research matter, but a planning system and housing delivery matter.

Report Structure

1.7 The Housing Land Audits research is presented in the following sections:

  • Policy and Research Review (Section 2)
  • Analysis of Housing Land Audits (Section 3)
  • Survey of Local Planning Authorities and Consultations (Section 4)
  • Summary and Conclusions (Section 5)

Appended to the report are:

Appendix 1: Scottish Planning Policy Diagram 1: Housing Land, Development Planning and Local Housing Strategy;

Appendix 2: Draft Planning Delivery Advice: Housing and Infrastructure (withdrawn) Figure 1: Delivery of Housing and Infrastructure; and

Appendix 3: Analysis of Current Housing Land Audits (to support Section 3 of this report).


Email: Deborah McLean