Congratulations to the elected Members of the UK Parliament

POSTED ON July 8, 2024 BY James Garry

For the Cockburn Association, the starting place is investing in existing places and communities first

Congratulations to the 2024 Edinburgh cohort of Members of the UK Parliament who secured seats in last week’s historic elections.  The Association looks forward to meeting with you in due course to discuss the well-being of this fine city.

For us, the priority must be better management, investment and protection of the existing infrastructure and places of Edinburgh.  This needs a fundamental shift of UK resources to maintenance and repair as a strategic policy objective.  We appreciate that cash will be very tight with many, many competing demands.

In times of constraint, ensuring existing places are properly managed is crucial.  As the Chair of the Association said in a recent blog, “now is the time for our political leaders to stop bashing the planning system and using it is an excuse for failures in other public policy areas, such as housing. We need to invest more in planning and good place-making, increasing awareness and reinforcing community and neighbourhood accountability, thereby ensuring Edinburgh’s unique architectural and landscape heritage is available to future generations to enjoy” – read the full statement here –

So, what needs to be done? We need to make the maintenance of existing buildings more competitive by either zero-rating VAT for repair works or by equalising the VAT rate for all building work at 5%.  It is nothing short of ridiculous that replacing a roof pays no VAT but repairing it adds 20% to the bill cost. Not only would this see empty or unfit properties improved but create employment opportunities and ensure the maintenance of the craft skills needed to continue to look after our traditionally built properties.

On the same theme, significant national resources need to be targeted towards the refurbishment and re-use of the thousands of Council houses that are vacant as there are funds to bring them back up to habitable standards.  Whilst we are at it, new initiatives to bring other vacant homes back into use are needed, such as considering restrictions on overseas purchases of residential property.  It is one thing for a Texan rancher or a Saudi Oil Baron buying a flat in Marchmont or townhouse in the New Town to live in as resident of the City (and they would be most welcome). It is something else if there is no intention to live there other than the odd week or two during the Festivals.  An extension (or possible alternative) to this is stop the purchase of houses by investment corporations, a major issue in London where it can be almost impossible to trace who the actual owner is.

We also need to enable local authorities like the City of Edinburgh Council to assemble land for development using existing CPO powers but allow them to deduct fully the cost of necessary infrastructure at the point of that CPO.  A bit niche, perhaps, but many people including our new MPs may not be aware that the Land Compensation Act 1963 enshrines in law the right of landowners – in the case of compulsory purchase by the state – to be reimbursed not only for the value of their site in its current use but for any prospective use to which it might be put in the future.  It is outmoded restrictions like this that impact on the delivery of new homes in the right places, not the planning system.

So, there is a start, and these issues are ones for the UK parliament to address, not the Scottish Parliament.   For the Cockburn Association, the starting place is investing in existing places and communities first.



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