Rob Gibson SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for a radical rethink to promote local housing instead of planners closing off possible house sites outside towns and villages.
He was speaking ahead of the Highland Council Planning meeting on Wednesday 18th March which is set to agree planning guidelines agreed in principle before the credit crunch hit large house builders and mortgages.
"Highland planners say they are taking a more flexible approach to housing in the countryside. In response to Scottish Government National And Local planning policy guidelines, they show little sympathy for small builders or families seeking agreement with willing site sellers. "
"Hinterland policy that penalises areas as far from Inverness as Easter Ross has to be revised. It is obvious in credit crunch times that big builders are laying off staff and large projects put on ice. Yet small developments in rural and remote areas are still applied for. I believe there is a whole untapped market for individual and small groups of homes to be built for local people. But I see no willingness by Highland planners to break their bad habits of forcing people into village envelopes. Too often these involve good agricultural land whether around towns and villages or remote crofting settlements."
"It is scandalous that last September the Council agreed that the housing design in the countryside document was a matter of urgency, yet the papers for the Committee on Wednesday show this is still outstanding. That sums up the lack of flair in planning. We need sympathetic designs but eco-friendly one must be positively encouraged."
"I am urging councillors to end the complacency, recognise that house building will lead us out of recession. Take steps to relax hinterland policy and put a rocket through planning from top to bottom to open up the Highlands for people to live in."