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Friday18 August 2017

Scotland’s Kickstart ‘will waste public cash’

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Scotland’s answer to Kickstart, the £130 million National Housing Trust initiative, is set to pay for more poor quality homes on the taxpayer, one of the country’s leading architects has predicted

The trust, which was announced last month, has been set up to breathe new life into the construction industry and create at least 1,000 homes by underwriting loans to housebuilders for mothballed sites.

But Edinburgh architect Malcolm Fraser described the trust as a “wishy washy” version of England’s controversial £1 billion Kickstart programme and predicted it would waste taxpayers’ money on sub-standard housing.

Under the trust, properties will be let to tenants for between five and 10 years and then sold, with proceeds partly used to pay back the Scottish government.

Neil Baxter

“It would be a great pity if a financially driven model was used”
Neil Baxter

Design will play some unspecified part in the selection of successful schemes but watchdog Architecture & Design scotland has admitted its involvement will be limited because of its small size.

Fraser, a former deputy chairman of A&DS, said: “This is giving public money to house builders to start doing things very badly again. It makes me really quite angry as a taxpayer and architect.

“I would be concerned that Scotland is doing just a slightly more wishy washy version of England’s Kickstart and the problems with Kickstart are so fundamental that I would have hoped Scotland would have tackled them in a more fundamental way.”

Neil Baxter, secretary of RIAS, welcomed the trust but warned that design quality should be the highest priority.

He said: “The procurement process clearly needs to be undertaken with great care because of the potential for this to be a system of bolstering private finances with public money. It would be a great pity if a financially driven model was used.”

A spokeswoman for delivery quango the Scottish Futures Trust said that making the developer responsible for maintenance during the rental period would provide an incentive not to build “shoddy homes”.

She added that the 2007 building regulations were likely to be used as the quality threshold.

The Scottish Futures Trust is holding an industry day on April 19. At least 16 architectural practices have expressed interest.

Several housing projects were selected for Kickstart funding before they won planning, the Homes & Communities Agency has admitted. In a written answer to the Communities and Local Government select committee, HCA chief executive Bob Kerslake said that “less than 10” projects were approved before they had been granted planning permission.

In each case he said the HCA projects executive meeting was held “a short time” before the planning meeting. The projects won funding subject to planning, but each was subsequently approved, the HCA added.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Read this article with some interest as the construction industry in Scotland does need the kickstart. But would give some credence to the comments made in the article on quality, particularly with when spokes person for the Scottish Futures Trust made reference to the building standards being the quality threshold. For many of us who have worked in the built environment know that the building standards are a minimum standard.

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  • What is your government up to? We've bailed out the bankers. Are we now to bail out the developers? Surely anyone in power can see decent standards must apply? I'm pushing Camden (in London) to require good quality design by requiring that al developers employ an architect. Progress towards decent housing is obviously an uphill battle on both sides of the border. Good luck to you, Malcolm Iain Meek Independent candidate for Holborn & Saint Pancras iain@meek.demon.co.uk

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