ANAS Sarwar says there needs to be changes to Glasgow’s planning system to encourage investment in the city.  

The Scottish Labour Party leader visited an eco-friendly warm homes project today (May 29) in Caledonia Square, in the city’s Gorbals, alongside Glasgow East candidate John Grady.  

Discussing Labour’s Warm Homes Plan, which would “upgrade every home that needs it to EPC standard C within a decade”, reducing people’s energy bills and creating 16,000 jobs, Sarwar said there are “huge opportunities” in Glasgow.  

Glasgow Times: Anas Sarwar and John GradyAnas Sarwar and John Grady (Image: Gordon Terris, Newsquest)

He said: “Our Warm Homes Plan is a key part of our green prosperity plan which of course includes GB Energy that we task with bringing down bills and creating more jobs, but our Warm Home Plan is also about how we retrofit homes to bring down the cost of people’s bills as well as how we build new homes and use innovation and technology.  

“And what you see here [at Caledonia Square] is the perfect bringing together of that property development and that technology to drive down people’s bills, improve energy consumption, help us strive towards net zero and also get housebuilding up across the country, something that we’re really keen to see spread right across Scotland and right across the UK.” 

Speaking about the need for more social housing, Sarwar says they want to “fix planning” in the city to attract further investment in Glasgow, as well as deliver economic stability across the UK to bring down the costs of people’s mortgages.  

Glasgow Times:

It comes after the Glasgow City Council declared a housing emergency in November, with unprecedented pressure on homeless services and a shortage of social housing. 

He said: “So much of what is slowing down developments but also pushing investment away from Glasgow is the fact that we have a planning environment where you’re waiting on average 78 weeks for a planning application in Glasgow whereas in Manchester it’s around 16 weeks and that’s not a positive environment in which to attract developers to make those investments here in Glasgow.” 

Sarwar continued: “Lots of people will tell you the SNP Green approach has actually pushed investment away from Scotland and made it harder for them to generate the capital needed from the pension funds and from banks.  

“We’ve got to change that landscape to inspire confidence and we have got to sort out the planning system because the planning system is pushing investments away from Glasgow and Scotland rather than pulling them towards Glasgow and Scotland.” 

Glasgow Times:

However, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said: "We don’t recognise that figure: even for Major applications - typically the most complex planning application to process - in the last quarter the average time to determine such an application was 25 weeks. 

"In each of the past six years, the city’s time to process these Major applications has been quicker than the Scottish average.

"For smaller residential applications (up to 49 new homes) almost half of the applications are approved in under eight weeks.

"In the 2023/24 financial year, eight Major (over 50 dwellings) residential applications have been granted planning permission, and none were refused. 

"In 2024 so far, more than 1500 new homes have been approved by the Planning Applications Committee alone, with other approvals for student accommodation.

"There has been a significant rise in development activity and investor interest in the city over the past year, notably for larger residential and mixed-use schemes, and this interest has resulted in a sharp increase in planning applications. 

"We will be taking on six new planning officers to help deal with these applications."

Sarwar also says Labour’s plans would “absolutely” help people with the cost of retrofitting older buildings in order to help them reduce their energy bills.  

The Glasgow Times previously reported in 2022 that seven Glasgow MPs backed a bid to have VAT scrapped on the cost of refurbishment and retrofitting to make tenement flats eco-friendly after a report for Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations estimated the cost of restoring more than 46,000 tenement flats across Glasgow, built pre-1919 and deemed dangerous, could hit £2.9billion. 

Sarwar said: “One of the biggest challenges we have in the race to net zero is right now for a lot of people it feels like this is something where people have to pay a price rather than it being an opportunity to help bring down their bills and confront the cost-of-living crisis.  

“So, we have to support people to make it financially a positive decision for them to make in order to make the retrofit adjustments to their homes or to use alternative energy sources.” 

Glasgow Times:

He added: “Alongside that, if you look at, for example, electric vehicles a lot of them are very very expensive. 

“How do you make it a viable option for people on lower incomes to be able to get electric vehicles, how do you upgrade the infrastructure around charging units and charging points which is a huge challenge in Glasgow where there’s lots of tenement buildings that becomes even harder as well in terms of where you put those charging units and the capacity you have around all of this.  

“A lot of it comes back to planning as well as what happens with our grid.  

“All of that requires an integrated plan and joint working between the local council, between the Scottish Government and the UK Government.”