Edinburgh council winds up arms-length development arm

Artist impression of the new development planned for Market Street
. Picture: Stewart Attwood Photography
Artist impression of the new development planned for Market Street . Picture: Stewart Attwood Photography
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COUNCIL chiefs are to wind up their arms-length development company EDI and take its work in-house.

The move comes after the company – set up nearly 30 years ago to build Edinburgh Park – made a profit of just £300,000 last year.

EDI had to be bailed out by the council in 2009 after the financial crash, but economy convener Gavin Barrie said the company had been developing important projects since then.

He said: “One of the main reasons we have made this decision is that EDI depends upon a supply of land but the council knows what it wants to do with the land we have which is build houses, so we will not have land to pass on.

“To have an arms-length company to do that type of work is not necessary. We believe we now have the expertise to do all that in-house.”

EDI is currently involved in five main projects – a new hotel in Market Street, a town centre and new housing in Craigmillar,
housing, offices and a hotel at Fountainbridge, housing at Brunstane and a development masterplan at Granton.

Cllr Barrie said all would be completed. Each project would be looked at to decide the best way forward and some were likely to become joint ventures between the council and a developer.

It is expected to take at least two years to wind up EDI. The decision won cross-party backing.

Tory finance spokesman Iain Whyte said with no new projects at the moment it seemed the best move.

But he said: “It’s important the council maintains flexibility to use whatever vehicle is most appropriate and best value.”

Green economy spokesman Gavin Corbett praised EDI for developing a masterplan for the Fountainbridge site.

But he said: “As time has ticked on there is a sense that the vision in the masterplan was being diluted and that a brownfield site five years ago where the breweries once stood is still a brownfield site today.

“So it is really time to inject some real momentum into getting the homes we need. Bringing it under closer control makes sense.”

Craigmillar Labour councillor David Walker said the EDI-led regeneration of his area had “not been a huge success”.

He said: “A new high school was to be the catalyst for regeneration and was to be built at an early stage to attract people to the area, but that never happened. They wasted £1m designing a new school when they didn’t have the money to build it. And they didn’t listen when local people were saying about having a mix of houses and flats and all we seem to have is flats.”

Eric Adair, operations and finance director at EDI, said the company had a long track record of successful development in the city, starting with Edinburgh Park.

He said: “Crucially though, the property market has changed and these new arrangements will mean regeneration work in Craigmillar and Granton will now have a much greater weight behind it and should progress faster.

“Everyone is extremely proud of what we have achieved and the positive legacy EDI will leave. In the meantime we remain firmly focused on finishing our current developments.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com