I wrote a column for Scotland on Sunday yesterday about the rapid growth in home businesses across the UK, and the need for increased support and an entrepreneurial approach from councils, planner and developers. An abbreviated version is below but for the full version go to Scotland on Sunday online.

Did you know there are 2.8 million businesses operating full time from home, contributing £284 billion annually to the UK economy? During the last 12 months alone – despite, or maybe as a direct result of the recession – 300,000 new home businesses were launched. And of those home-based enterprises surveyed for the Home Business Report 2009, 89% expect to increase turnover in the next 12 months.

Yet these businesses are largely ignored by politicians (a Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship study in 2008 found small enterprises operating from home were often treated as if they were of “little economic significance”) and by the public sector bodies who are supposed to support them.

But what exactly do we need to do? Apart from making an immediate concerted effort to fix the broadband problem and ensure quality coverage country-wide (an issue highlighted by Scottish Chambers of Commerce Chairman Mike Salter just last week at their annual dinner), we really need to demand our councils and town planners take a leaf our of our book and embrace a more entrepreneurial approach.

George Derbyshire of NFEA, the national enterprise network, is concerned that the growth of home based businesses will be held back simply because of the inadequacy of their homes, which are generally not designed to house a business.

Derbyshire agrees that this presents a new challenge that councils and town planners need to address. He believes every new housing development should contain live/work units and properties with space for home offices. They should have facilities for meeting places, such as coffee shops and print shops, where home workers can meet and network.

“Councils often insist on community facilities like playing fields and nurseries being built by developers, why not support home businesses as well?” he asks.

It would be simple to have a book-keeper working in a hub looking after a number of different local companies, a board room that could be hired out for important meetings, even storage facilities that could be rented out on a subsidised basis for a couple of years.

And what about making better, commercial use of underutilised public facilities, such as school kitchens? Entrepreneur Gillian Crawford knows people who would love to open a food-based business but have been thwarted by bureaucracy and health and safety requirements. If the local authority can’t stretch to making commercial kitchens available that meet the European food safety requirements, then why not rent out school kitchens in the evenings and at weekends?

Co-founder of jeweler Tartan Twist, Crawford says it would be fantastic to see local authorities and landlords renting out empty shops to companies who could open pop-up shops over Christmas. It would certainly brighten up town centres blighted by boarded-up properties and would encourage a real community.

This idea that empty retail units in town centres could be renovated or sub-divided into small business units is currently being lobbied by the Federation of Small Businesses. Colin Borland says the benefits are two-fold; not only are you helping the business move to the next stage without forcing them to take on more than they need, but by keeping them in the town you keep life, business and activity on our hard-pressed high streets.

“If encouraging business growth is the top priority,” says Borland, “Then that must be hardwired into public bodies’ decision-making and daily work.”

More than 60% of all business start-ups begin at home. Fledgling entrepreneurs are attracted by both the freedom and the flexibility that comes with launching a home-based business. It’s a lower risk and lower cost approach and with one in 10 making sales of more than £250,000 and employing at least 10 people, small businesses are turning passion into profits and making a crucial contribution to the Scottish economy. Surely they deserve more from our councils, town planners and enterprise agencies in return?