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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Council house purchase ban agreed
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Fife properties are soaring on the back of Edinburgh's property boom
Council tenants in St Andrews and East Fife have had the right to buy their homes suspended to combat the town's spiralling property price problem.

The Scottish Executive has agreed to Fife Council's request for a five-year veto to ease pressure on the market.

It affects the 560 tenants who have been renting their homes in the area either on or after 30 September 2002.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the council presented a "convincing case" for the suspension.

It helps councils to continue to offer homes for affordable rent to people on low incomes in areas where the right to buy could otherwise lead to serious shortages.

Addressing a conference on Affordable Housing in Edinburgh, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said: "Housing pressures vary across Scotland and it is up to individual councils to consider whether it is appropriate to apply.

St Andrews
St Monan's
Lower Largo

"Fife Council presented a convincing case in support of its application, with compelling evidence of substantial pressures on affordable housing in the designated areas.

"The executive recognises that affordable housing is a key factor in sustaining communities and that is why we have provided record funding of more than 400m over the last year to fund new affordable homes across Scotland.

"This designation does not signal any change in our Right to Buy policy."

He added: "Fife is the fifth council to have successfully applied and a sixth application - from Dumfries and Galloway - is currently being considered.

'Strong views'

"This shows that local authorities are looking carefully at affordable housing in their own areas and deciding that the pressured area option can help them.

"The executive recognises that there are strong views about right to buy, but we will consider whether there is a case for further changes only when we have seen the evidence that will be collected on the effect of the policy and reported to parliament this autumn."

Alan Davidson, Fife Council head of housing, said: "The announcement is good news for St Andrews and the East Neuk and we are pleased when Mr Chisholm made the announcement and acknowledged the strength of Fife Council's application for this aid.

The right to buy is one of the main causes of a shortage of affordable housing
James Jopling
Shelter Scotland

"Our next step will be to continue to work towards extending pressured area status to Dunfermline, Inverkeithing and the west Fife villages where we feel there is just as strong a need for this help."

Since 1997 about one in six council houses across Fife have been sold under the right to buy.

But in St Andrews and the East Neuk the proportion was higher, at one in four and one in five, the council said.

Housing spokesman Alex Sawers said: "Today's announcement shows Fife Council is on track with its promise to help provide affordable housing across the Kingdom.

"But it is only a start and we will continue to lobby for all five areas to be granted this status."

Shelter Scotland said it "strongly supported" the move.

Head of campaigns James Jopling said: "There is no doubt that the right to buy has been popular - but this has been at the expense of both the most disadvantaged in society, and increasingly the ability of local authorities to meet housing need.

"An increasing number of Scottish local authorities recognise that the right to buy is one of the main causes of a shortage of affordable housing."

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