‘Favourable’ talks held in bid to find north-east sites for £20m homes cash

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A multi-million pound fund to deliver new homes across the north-east has yet to be spent, despite first being announced three years ago.

The historic £250 million Aberdeen City Region Deal was signed off by ministers from the UK and Scottish Governments in the north-east in January 2016.

On the same day, Holyrood announced an additional £254m of infrastructure investment, including £20m of funding to unlock housing sites that are of strategic importance to the local authorities, as well as five-year certainty on £130m of affordable housing grant.

But at a meeting of the City Region Deal Joint Committee at Woodhill House yesterday, it was revealed that, to date, none of this has been allocated to develop new housing sites.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils have entered talks with the Scottish Government over getting local control to decide how the £20m is spent.

A report by Mel Booth, senior housing strategy officer, said: “Initial discussions with Scottish Government regarding this proposal have been favourable, and they have requested an outline proposal for consideration, with a further detailed proposal to be submitted after this pending agreement.

“The local authorities are working together to identify further sites in the City Region that could use this funding.”

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Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing said there were “strict criteria” from the Scottish Government on what sites the money could be used for.

She added: “We wanted to try to enter into negotiations to try to make sure it could be spent on affordable housing.

“It’s important we deliver on that in the region.”

A formal submission is expected to be made to the Scottish Government by the end of June, with a final proposal submitted to the Joint Committee in August.

Members of the committee were told that the formal submission will include sites and “full detail” on how the £20m will be spent across the north-east by March 2021.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We will continue to work with both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council to establish the most effective means of utilising the £20m infrastructure funding aligned to the City Region Deal agreement.

“In the interim, the Scottish Government will continue to liaise with council officials to identify specific project proposals which meet the qualifying criteria.”