HC Deb 05 July 1989 vol 156 cc292-3
5. Mr. Wallace

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of Scottish Homes to discuss the development of a rural housing strategy.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

The development of Scottish Homes' rural strategy was one of the issues discussed formally when I met Sir James Mellon, chairman of Scottish Homes, on 23 June.

Mr. Wallace

When the Under-Secretary of State spoke in the Scottish Grand Committee last week about homelessness, one remedy that he did not describe was building more houses. Given that homelessness is as much a rural as an urban problem, and that the amount allocated by Scottish Homes to housing associations in the north of Scotland will scarcely allow for any new projects to be brought on stream in the next year, what steps do the Government intend to take to give more support to housing associations so that they can fulfil the important task of building and providing housing?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I have good news for the hon. Member. Orkney housing association has been allocated £850,000 this year—the largest allocation since its formation. Moreover, programme expenditure for the north region is no less than £44 million for 1988–89. I fully expect the rural strategy now being worked out by Scottish Homes to be in place by May next year. That strategy will point the way to more houses being built in areas where they are most needed. We expect that in Scotland as a whole between 3,000 and 4,000 houses will be completed this year.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in terms of rural and urban housing, the Loreburn housing association has carried out exceptionally good work in Dumfries and Galloway? Will he do everything possible to approve its exciting new scheme at Nithsdale mills, even it if means the demolition of a Victorian mill?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I can confirm that the performance of Loreburn housing association has been extremely impressive. Its application to pull down the building to which my hon. Friend refers is currently with Dumfries and Galloway regional council, which is the planning authority. The application will be considered this month. If it is approved, the decision will be notified to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State as the building is listed, but the matter will be processed as quickly as possible thereafter.