Which Green Belt Sites in a Local Plan Review? Weighing Strategic Green Belt Assessments in the Balance

This post ios not about the principle of loss of Green Belt.  Rather it is about where an LPA has a shortfall which sites its chooses in the GB.

In quite a few sites I have seen one site has potential good PT access and could form the nucleus of a transit orientated community.   Another site less so, perhaps not on a rail line, a rounding off far suburban site – but being less exposed,  is judged to meet Green Belt purposes better in a strategic review.

The sites for expansion may even be in another local planning authority – witness Slough and South Bucks this week

I dont think you should apply the findings of the strategic  review mechanically.  Sometimes the best site when judged against all criteria may not be the very best site when judged solely against GB purposes issues.  Sites along existing or potential transit corridors may be definition be exposed through running along flat easy accessible land.  Oxford is a good example of this.

So whilst weighing in the balence complex landscape issues they cant trump good planning.  Sometimes good planning has to be seen, even in the Green Belt, and if it is the choice between a transit orientated extension and sprawl at a site that marginally does less well in Green Belt purposes terms good sustainable planning should always trump mechanistic application of a single rule.  In those cases bit the bullet and produce a new harder better Green Belt edge.

Lets face it too every single Green Belt review is manipulated by the commissioning authority to tilt the balance against the sites the politicians think most contentious.  They should be treated with a healthy pinch of salt by inspectors.  If you doubt this look at the warring assessments produced for South of Grenoble Road between Oxford CC and South Oxfordshire.

Corbyn accused of ‘oversimplifying a complex issue’ on Estate Regeneration

Its like Brexit.  Why should elected representatives who represented every local resident- including the currently unhoused – be trumped.  Im with Javids guidance here it strikes precisely the right balance on preventing gentrification whilst insuring densification and preventing metrication for its own sake.  It would seem that Corbyn would rather let major estates in London rot rather than bring in new investment and 10s of thousands of new houses, many of which would enormously reduce local councils current bills for temporary accommodation.  Old style loony left posturing rather than real ‘actually existing labour’ governance.  Having said that there are cases in London, like Cressingham, where the residents campaigns are right and refurbishment should be backed.  Indeed I think the Cressingham estate should be a conservation area.


A Labour-run council has said it is opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to force local authorities to ballot residents before carrying out housing redevelopments because a yes/no vote would risk oversimplifying a complex issue.

Haringey council in north London, which is carrying out a major regeneration project in association with the developer Lendlease, said it would resist the idea of a compulsory ballot.

The Haringey Labour councillor Alan Strickland, who holds the housing and regeneration brief, said: “We will continue to put comprehensive and meaningful engagement with residents at the heart of our regeneration plans, but we do not expect to start using yes/no ballots.”

The borough cited guidance from the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, which warns ballots “can risk turning a complex set of issues that affects different people in different ways over many years into a simple yes/no decision at a single point in time”.

The ballot idea was among a cluster of housing policies outlined by Corbyn during his speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton on Wednesday. The leader said he believed too many council regeneration schemes amounted to “forced gentrification and social cleansing”, with social tenants pushed out by private developers.

Corbyn said that under a Labour government, those who lived on an estate earmarked for redevelopment would have to be guaranteed a replacement home at the same site and on the same terms, and no work could take place unless approved by a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders.

The plans were viewed by many as a thinly veiled attack on some Labour-run councils, especially in London, where boroughs such as Haringey, Southwark and Lambeth have carried out huge and often controversial rebuilding schemes.

Facing a squeeze in funding and increased pressure for housing, councils and others have sought to replace 1960s council estates with privately built developments, some including little social or affordable housing.

Other councils were more circumspect but defended their regeneration plans. Mark Williams, in charge of housing in Southwark, said opponents of schemes such as the ongoing rebuilding of the 1960s Aylesbury estate had wrongly claimed many tenants were being forced out of the area, when 95% of those who had moved still lived in the borough.

Protesters outside Aylesbury council estate in 2015
 Protesters outside Aylesbury council estate in 2015. Photograph: Andrea Baldo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Corbyn’s plans do, however, tap into longstanding public opposition to some of the schemes. In Lambeth, residents of a 1960s low-rise estate, Cressingham Gardens, have fought a long battle against the council’s plans to demolish what they say is a vibrant community.

Jo Parkes, one of the campaigners, said that after Lambeth declined to ballot residents on its plans, her group did, and found 86% of households opposed them, with a 72% response rate.

Parkes said she believed campaigns such as the Cressingham one had helped push Corbyn into action. “Absolutely,” she said. “We’ve been talking about it for some time, and it had been a bit disappointing that Corbyn was silent on this before now.

One senior Labour figure in a council, speaking anonymously, said that if Corbyn wanted to crack down on public-private housing schemes he would need to find a replacement source of funding.

He said: “One thing missing from the speech is that there wasn’t an acceptance that while the aims are perfectly laudable, a Labour government would have to put serious amounts of cash behind it. I think it would, but that has to be recognised.”

A source in the national Labour party said Corbyn had a plan to fund the proposals. “There would be new funding,” the source said. “Jeremy recognises councils have had to be creative over these plans, and his speech wasn’t intended as a direct criticism of them.”



Northern Powerhouse Back on Agenda – Watch out on Budget Day

Budget Day is the two year ‘Hard Deadline’ given to the NIC for the National Infrastructure Strategy and the Oxford=MK-Cambridge Strategy report- so watch this space.  A perfect opportunity for the chancellor to make jokes about the sides of buses and set the agenda.


Theresa May is “allowing and even almost lightly encouraging” more focus on the northern powerhouse since her two closest advisers quit after the election, one of the plan’s architects has said.

Jim O’Neill, the former commercial secretary to the Treasury, said the plan to rebalance the UK’s economy appeared to be back on the government’s agenda following the resignation of Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill in June.

“It may be complete coincidence, but I’m sure it’s not, that since they’ve gone there is more interest in stuff to do with the northern powerhouse, as evidenced by [Philip] Hammond’s visit [to northern leaders this month],” he said.

Lord O’Neill, who resigned from the government last September, spoke as a report published by former chancellor George Osborne’s northern powerhouse thinktank said 850,000 jobs could be created by 2050 with investment from the government and business.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) report, written by business leaders including the Siemens UK chief executive, Juergen Maier, said the government had a “vital role” and urged Hammond, the current chancellor, to use his upcoming budget to commit billions of pounds to close the productivity gap between the north and London.

O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs chief economist who sits on the NPP board, said the projects needed government investment of about £5bn. It was a “big ask”, he said, but one the government could afford and that fit within its industrial strategy.

The report, Powerhouse 2050: the North’s Routemap for Productivity, says the north of England could be £100bn more productive and be world-leading in four fields – including energy and digital – with the right backing.

Among the four sectors, it calls for £2bn to replace the entire gas network of Leeds with hydrogen, which would be produced in the Tees Valley, and £1bn to creating a new northern economy of small nuclear reactors.

It also calls for £60m for the north to become the UK’s first region commit to industrial digitisation, and £100m to reinforce the UK as a leader in health data.

O’Neill said investment in those four areas would be “game-changing for the north and of a sufficient magnitude that it would boost the rate of growth of the country as a whole”.

In a foreword to the report, Osborne called for the north to bring together its areas of expertise that were currently “in pockets across the region, separated by traditional geographic boundaries with proud local identities”.

The former chancellor added: “National government has an important role too, especially in providing the infrastructure needed – like northern powerhouse rail, the transformational scheme to connect the great cities of the north.

“There are other investments in science and research and training the government needs to fund, which we cost in this report and which government can clearly afford over the coming years as part of the money it has set aside for its industrial strategy.

“Bring what the north has committed to deliver and what the government can provide, and you have an economic plan that would raise productivity across the northern economy and could deliver an additional 850,000 jobs.”

Last month Osborne suggested May could “relaunch her premiership” at the Conservative party conference this weekend by making a bold commitment to improving transport infrastructure in the north.

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has infuriated mayors, civic and business leaders by scrapping the planned electrification of railway lines in the Midlands and the north.

O’Neill described rail electrification as a “red herring” and said it may not be the most cost-effective way forward. The former minister said he had met Grayling last week and was confident the government was committed to improving the north’s transport links.

“The idea that Whitehall isn’t focused on what the north needs for transport, I don’t think it’s actually very well founded,” he said. “The key for what’s needed for the north on transport is the straightness of the lines and the number of points. How it’s powered is of much less importance, and that I’m pretty confident about. I know the geeks get all caught up in this stuff but it’s sort of a red herring.”

He said he would be “amazed if there isn’t some kind of signal intent on transport” in the budget on 22 November, and Hammond’s visit to northern leaders this month was significant. “I’m also hopeful that now [Hill and Timothy] have disappeared the PM seems to be allowing and even almost lightly encouraging more focus on the northern powerhouse,” O’Neill added.

What a Duty to Cooperate Memorandum of Misunderstanding Looks Like

Forward to Slough BC document on Slough Northern Extension

By the way the proposal includes Richings Park Golf Course,  a good site for housing but better for employment, it and the adjoining very low density housing area should be redeveloped as Britain/s largest inland port/SEZ/SRFI – New LIFE- linked to Heathrow Airfreight by the proposed Heathrow Western Access tunnel – as the most accessible site by road, rail and air in the UK; housing as opposed to logistics/entrepot would be a waste of a good site.  Ill be blogging on this soon.

Slough Borough Council is not the Local Planning Authority, Highway
Authority or Education Authority for much of the area covered by this
document. Those relevant authorities are South Bucks District Council
and Buckinghamshire County Council.
Slough Borough Council commissioned Atkins to prepare the Draft
Slough Northern Extension document (the document) to support
its proposal in South Bucks District under the Duty to Co-operate
in order to help meet Slough’s anticipated unmet housing needs to
As such the document has no planning status and does not form
part of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan evidence base. It can
however inform Duty to Co-operate discussions with Slough Borough
South Bucks District Council is undertaking a joint Local Plan with
Chiltern District Council, the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan
2014 – 2036, and is progressing towards Draft Local Plan consultation
prior to Submission (Regulation 19 stage).
South Bucks District Council and Chiltern District Council are cooperating
on an on-going basis with Slough Borough Council on
the emerging Local Plan. However the Councils do not agree on
the approach being taken by Slough Borough Council regarding
its aspirations for a Northern Extension to Slough in South Bucks
District. This disagreement on approach, from Chiltern and South
Bucks District Councils’ perspective (a position shared with Aylesbury
Vale District Council, Wycombe District Council and Bucks Thames
Valley Local Enterprise Partnership), is set out in a Duty to Co-operate
Position Statement on the Councils’ websites (under the Emerging
Local Plan Evidence Base pages).
In addition the proposal in the document is contrary to the evidence
base being prepared to support the Chiltern and South Bucks Local
Plan particularly in relation to the published Green Belt Assessment
work. As such the proposal includes land identified for development
that has not been identified for potential release from the Green Belt
as part of the Councils’ Preferred Green Belt Options.
The Northern Extension of Slough proposal is therefore not
supported by South Bucks District Council as the Local Planning
Authority or Chiltern District Council in undertaking a joint Local Plan
with South Bucks District Council based on current evidence base
documents available. Further evidence base work including additional
Green Belt Assessment evidence base work will inform on-going duty
to co-operate discussions with Slough Borough Council.
Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils have provided officer
comments on the Draft Slough Northern Extension document
and these comments are published on their websites (e.g. again
under Emerging Local Plan Evidence Base pages). Based on these
comments the Councils have advised Slough Borough Council not to
publish the Draft Slough Northern Extension document. Instead the
Councils have requested that Slough Borough Council re-consider
the document in the light of the Bucks Duty to Co-operate Position
Statement and comments on the draft document; to publish a
memorandum of understanding setting out respective positions;
undertake a correctly ordered evidence base needed to be in place in
order to be able to consider the Northern Extension proposal; and to
continue with discussions under the Duty to Co-operate to hopefully
arrive at an agreed outcome. However Slough Borough Council has
decided to publish the document and has agreed to do so with this
Covering Note so that readers of the document better understand its
planning context.

CPRE Claim that Rich People and People Living in Green Belt Areas Don’t Need Homes

Almost as bad as the demographically and numerically innumerate recent DCLG consultation on standardizing (basterdising) OAN is the equally unhelpful CPRE report by Trinley Walker Needless Demand.  It makes a good point already made by many including us.  Need is not the same as demand, need is not always expressed in the market, if you neglect need and focus only on demand you will get the wrong mix of homes.

As well of course –  the preposterous NPPF definition which defines need as housing that is needed, and hence doesn’t define it at all, and then in the same breath housing demanded in the area (I demand a house in the Lake District therefore it is part of the Lake District housing need, rather than where I live or where I might realistically live).

But now comes the obfuscation.

The conflation of need and demand in the calculation and application of OAN is a problem in itself because it distracts from the priority activity that is required to  resolve the housing crisis: the provision of homes that meet actual local needs. This is of particular concern to CPRE because homes that are planned and/or built that address demand but do not meet need waste valuable countryside,

Lets pick this apart.  I am a rich person.  I want to express my demand by buying a newly built house in South Oxfordshire District.  Is it saying that this countryside should not be built on or that to avoid wasting it the housing built on the South Oxfordshire Countryside should be prioritised to locals in need?

I dont think they can claim the latter rather than the former is later in the report they are explicit that expensive market housing restricted by planning policy in one area is not made up in other areas.  In other terms rich people dont need homes.  A policy which would lead to housing affordability becoming ever worse because rich people aren’t restricted to living in new homes, they can instead live in the 95% of the stock that it is existing and with housing not built in an area meaning the same number of people chasing fewer houses pushing up prices for everybody and creating need by some household falling off the bottom rung of the affordability ladder.  This is clear in their section 6.0 on a new approach, an approach oddly enough repeating many of the same mistakes than the government OAN paper makes – which would lead to a systematic under supply of housing.

Take the following – it has a correct definition of housing need (Alan Holmans/Duncan Bowie taken from well done) then adds the following poison pills.

It adds ‘at local level’ so exuding in migration.  So implying someone short of a home in London cant move to a new job in booming Science Vale.  An old trick tried by the keep them out at all costs CPRE branches, then adds the following nonsense.

Housing demand is recorded as the market demand for housing that exceeds the minimum requirements to meet housing need

This is entirely and precisely wrong.   Housing need is housing need able to be realised in housing market+ need for affordable housing.

The implication of the CPRE subtle definition is that housing need is ‘locals only’ need for housing and anyone trying to buy a house in the local market doesn’t need one.  This is explicit in the title of the report’ Needless demand’. Ok then where should they be able to buy a house?

It goes on ‘ The desired development, including new homes, needs to be calculated on the basis of realistic assessments of the ability of the economy and the capacity of the
development industry to meet those aspirations, as well as taking account of constraints such as Green Belt and other planning or environmental designations. Such aspirations should be presented as separate from housing need and demand’

Point 1 according to the CPRE planning constraints such as Green Belts mean I dont need a home.  They dont claim anywhere else that this need should be made up elsewhere through regional planning.  Indeed step one of their OAN model exudes migration from constrained areas by definition.

Point 2 yes there is a fair point about overly aspirational job targets which dont add up nationally.  Not everywhere can have the highest and most aspirational growth levels. However lets imagine im a firm that wants to locate to south Oxfordshire but cant because of shortages of labour force, or’i’m a worker that wants to migrate there because of lack of a job or a home.  Is this aspirational?  Imagine then that that person wants to migrate from a constrained area or an area without a chronic shortage of housing such as London?  The CPRE definition excludes them from its definition of need.  What this illustrates is the common flaw of both the CPRE paper and the DLCG paper.  Housing need is not local it is universal.  It is a political decision where that need is met.  That political decision will include some already living in an area and some moving there to work and retire.  By saying those moving to high paid jobs in an area is ‘demand’ and not need the CPRE is saying nothing about where those people will be housed;  implying that those houses wont be built.  It is in effect a policy of internal pass laws where villages and towns are kept in aspect for a rapidly aging and dying population and where in migration is left of the figures to minimise ‘concreting over the countryside’.

The last time the CPRE succeeded in convincing a gullible planning inspector on this point was in the 1990s with the West Sussex structure plan.  They havn’t once won it since because everyone in the planning world has learned it to be a fallacious argument.  The same argument reproduced 100s times over each time with a new DTP gloss and padded and hidden with correct statements and nice data and footnotes around it is designed to disguise the central fallacy.

They go on

‘A policy-on’ scenario should change the amount and type of housing that is planned for in order to meet policy outcomes insofar as can be realistically and sustainably achieved in the plan period’

You can never have a policy off scenario without migration.  That is a policy on scenario of restricting housing numbers nationally because of a failure to meet housing shortfalls in some areas with housing boosts in others.  There is only a choice between one policy and another.  Never a policy off scenario.  What can be realistically and sustainable achieved again is a policy issue.  We realistically and sustainably met national housing requirements through New Towns programme and mass housebuilding of social housing in the 50s and 60s and can and should do so again.

Much else in the paper is good.  Standardizing OAN, great, but the paper came out a week late.  Please DCLG dont follow the CPRE method as you will systematically undersupply housing even more than your own weak effort does.   It misquotes my friend Duncan Bowie I think in a worrying way.

The standardisation of the SHMA process has also been called for by Bowie, who noted the additional benefit that estimates of housing need produced at a local level could be aggregated up to a national level

He meant estimated in the correct way, not totting up local models that exclude migration.    In a correct model all inflows and outflows of migration add up so there is no double counting and all need is met.  In such a balance sheet consistent model the same model can be seen as an aggregation of local models or segregationist of a national model to many local models.  Mathematically they are and should be the same as the sub national geographies are man made and however they are drawn should make no difference to the total national need.

The CPRE need to more honest.  for all of the households who would not get a house in their OAN model where would they go?  Similarly with the DCLG.  Neither can at the moment claim a credible answer to our housing crisis.  Only those brave enough to say where the missing millions of houses should go are forming a constructive part of the debate.

Appeal Court to Planning Lawyers – Your all Out of a Job

Best of the big three cases this year – better than Chesire East and Barwood (its ostensibly is a part q fall back vase – dont you just loathe part q more than anything this side of Jupiter) but it was as a court of appeal case it gave the entire bench to let rip at how hyperjudical the government has let the planning system become because of its vague and awful drafting of planning policy and GPDO amendments.

Mansall v Tonbridge and Malling – Court of Appeal


Still not published .

If only because of last section where the Chncellor of the High Court – agreeing with the ever more pissed off  LJ Linblom since Barwood says

Appeals should not, in future, be mounted on the basis of a legalistic analysis of the different formulations adopted in a planning officer’s report. An appeal will only succeed, as Lindblom L.J. has said, if there is some distinct and material defect in the report. Such reports are not, and should not be, written for lawyers, but for Councillors who are well-versed in local affairs and local factors.

So on what basis will they succeed on, especially as defects in reports can and should be pointed out before decisions nowadays that reports are usually available some days before meetings?  How will planning lawyers make a living from now on?  Full inquiries are rare now, local plan inquiries abolished.  Perhaps they should take up Shipping law or something instead?   Im sure KitKat would make a wonderful judge at the St Helena  High Court.

Chateau de Thames all round.  65 Pump Court, perhaps introduce a new part Z for PD rights of conversion of former barristers chambers. Im sure some could reskill as they almost are well trained enough to understand part q and part n.   Some intensive livestock units site visits need doing, seeing of the slurry reservoirs really are than smelly 400m away – someone has to do it after all and those poor souls are now a necessary charity case.

Im only half joking, read the judgment in full a must read.


Duty to Defy – South Oxfordshire’s Two Fingers to Oxford’s Overspill

Witney Gazette

Ignoring the overspill for Oxford – agreed by all other Oxfordshire Districts

Chalgrove Airfield is a stupid site – 30 miles from Oxford no Rail access.  South of Grenoble Road is a perfect site right next to Oxford and proposed for a restored rail access, right next to where the Oxford Cambridge Expressway will likely go effectively redefining the southern boundary of the site.

As for Culham Bridges, absolutely essential, the fact that the most direct Didcot-Oxford routes uses a medieval packhorse bridge and a narrow Georgian bridge is ridicules and throttle growth at Didcit and around Culham Science centre which has a railway station.  Like the Expressway crossing of the Isis its essential so lets get the best design creating a heritage asset of tomorrow.

Of course in the Autumn Statement will be announced the next steps in the Oxford-MK-Cambridge strategy process – this cant end well for the famous denialists of reality at South Oxfordshire who have stopped the world turning on Oxford’s needs for 20 years.  More on this soon.

THOUSANDS of new homes across south Oxfordshire are expected to be given the go-ahead when a council publishes the final draft of its local plan.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) is currently wading through the thousands of responses it has received to the draft local plan – the blueprint for development in the area – since it was published in March.

Councillors will then meet to discuss the responses at a series of meetings before a final draft is published on October 11.

The local plan outlines provisions to meet the urgent need for housing across the region up to 2033.

It includes plans for major new building sites in Culham and Chalgrove Airfield, bringing more than 6,500 homes and tens of thousands of people to the area.

Councillor John Cotton, leader of the district council, said: “Making sure we get this right is a great responsibility and one we take very seriously.

“There’s no silver bullet solution when talking about building thousands of houses in a rural district, but we are very confident our local plan represents the best possible balance of homes in effective, sustainable locations, supported by the right infrastructure and in a way that protects and enhances what’s best about south Oxfordshire.”

The public will have another chance to comment on the final draft of the plan after it is published and these responses will be passed to the government, along with the draft plan, at the end of the year.

All the documents will then be considered by the planning inspectorate who will conduct a public examination to decide whether the plan is sound or not.

Campaigners have previously raised concerns that the Culham development will encroach on green belt land and ruin the identity of the village.

Historic England also objected to a major new Thames bridge that would link the Culham site with Didcot because of the planned route’s proximity to historic sites.

The district council has previously said that without the bridge the number of new houses that could be built on the site would be limited to 750.

In response to some of the objections raised, the council is expected to reduce the number of houses allocated to some areas in earlier versions of the plan.

But it remains convinced that the huge new developments are the best way to tackle the urgent need for houses in South Oxfordshire.

In total 22,500 homes will be built in the region over the 22 year period although most of these have been granted permission or are already in construction.

As well as setting out new housing sites, the local plan explains how the new homes would be supported by roads, schools, shops, parks, leisure centres, community facilities and other infrastructure.


With Javid About to Be Booted Out by May Housing White Paper will die a Death


The reshuffle was due to take place after the Conservative conference next month, but it is now believed Theresa May will delay it in order to keep the threat hanging over the heads of those she has clashed with, including Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox.

Javid had the temerity to criticize her in a speech criticizing all prime ministers over the last 20 years for not getting enough houses built, and has clashed with her on civil liberties issues.  Worst of all they clashed as the now sacked Nick Timothy succeeded in taking all of the teeth and new measures from the Housing White paper making it a toothless wonder.  With a new ministerial team in the Autumn expect to see two more years of getting to know the job, introducing silly knee jerk panicky measures  from not knowing the brief (beds in cowsheds anyone?) and worst of all more kicking into the long grass tough decisions on Garden Cities and measures arising from the NIC Oxford-MK-Cambridge strategy.

Even if Javid stays he is crippled – a walking dead cabinet minister marked out for daring to disagree with her imperiousness.

Ruth Davidson – Build up to 8 Scottish New Town to Tackle Housing Crisis


Now why isn’t she Prime Minister

Ruth Davidson will today outline plans to tackle Scotland’s chronic housing shortage by building up to eight new towns as part of a Tory drive to switch the political debate away from independence and back to “bread-and-butter” issues.

The Scottish Tory leader will argue the country is in the grip of the worst housing crisis since the aftermath of the Second World War and argue that “radical” solutions are required to ensure that Scots in their 20s and 30s have a realistic chance of buying their own homes.

Calling for a clear plan to build 25,000 homes are year, she will propose a new generation of new towns, the creation of a Housing Infrastructure Agency to support major developments and the Housing Minister being promoted to the Scottish Cabinet.

However, she will argue that ministers and developers must learn from the mistakes of the wave of post-war housing developments by avoiding the “disastrous design choices of the past” and ensuring they nurture communities.

Speaking to the IPPR think tank in Edinburgh, she will say that the proposals are part of a Scottish Tory drive over the next year to “try and turn a page” and focus on “the day job” of domestic issues.

Although she will admit the Brexit talks will dominate the political agenda over the next few months, she will argue the coming 12 months is the first year in 2013 when Scotland’s political parties will not be fighting an election or referendum campaign.

Scottish Tory strategists believe they have to broaden their message beyond their strong pro-Union stance if they are to have a chance of ousting Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP at the 2021 Holyrood election.

They plan to build a comprehensive programme for government over the coming years, focusing on Holyrood’s devolved powers, in the hope of convincing voters tired of the Nationalists that they are a viable alternative.

Housing developers have reported they completed 16,498 new homes last year, up one per cent on the previous 12 months, but the number of properties started fell 2 per cent. Completions were more than 36 per cent down on 2007 and below 2010.

First-time buyers needs an average deposit of more than £21,000 to get on the first rung of the Scottish housing ladder, typically around 16 per cent of the purchase price.

Ms Davidson will argue that the post-war generation of political leaders facing a housing crisis “had the courage to act in order to get building”.

She will say: “We now need to find the same courage to address today’s needs. Market failure is depriving thousands of young people one of the most basic opportunities in society: the ability to buy and own your home.”

The Scottish Tory leader will cite a report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors proposing between six and eight new communities are built across the country.

“It is time seize the moment – and look at a series of new generation new towns,” she will say.

“We are already seeing some beautiful new villages and towns springing up in Scotland which have put high quality design, affordable homes, and community values at the heart of their development. That’s the way to go.”

Ruth Davidson plans to put the constitution to one side and focus on "bread-and-butter" issues

Outlining the Tories’ political direction over the coming year, she will say there is a “yearning among many to see a political debate in Scotland focus more heavily on the bread and butter issues that matter to us here at home.

“So while we in the Scottish Conservatives have rightly complained that the SNP has failed to focus on the day job, we need to demonstrate our wish to set our sights on that task too.”

But Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour’s housing spokesman, said: “No one will trust the Tories to deliver these policies. Ruth Davidson talks about the worst housing crisis since World War II, but forgets to mention it was a radical Labour government that fixed it.”

Angela Constance, the SNP’s Communities MInister, said: “We have delivered over 68,000 affordable homes since 2007, reintroduced council housing and have supported more than 23,000 people into home ownership.

“By ending the right to buy we have increased the supply of affordable homes. In addition, the rate of house-building completions across all sectors puts Scotland ahead of England and Wales and we outperform the whole of the UK in new build social sector completion rates.”