Crisis talks for coalition over housing blueprint deadlock

The site for the proposed 'Garden District'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The site for the proposed 'Garden District'. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Edinburgh’s Labour-SNP coalition is facing its most serious split to date after the two parties failed to reach agreement on the city’s 20-year planning blueprint.

Crisis talks are scheduled next week in a bid to break the deadlock over where to site thousands of new homes.

And council leader Andrew Burns is understood to have warned he will invoke a formal disputes procedure if the SNP refuse to accept a Labour compromise.

The SNP wants to scrap proposals for large developments in the west of the city, around Cammo, Currie and Balerno, but Labour is unwilling to agree to the move.

SNP councillors will meet at lunchtime on Monday to decide whether to stick to their position or back the Labour compromise which, it is understood, would defer a proper decision for several months.

The Evening News revealed yesterday that in the latest version of the Local 
Development Plan, officials recommend around 1500 new homes in South Queensferry, 600 at Cammo, 1850 for Maybury, 300 for Currie and Balerno, 1100 at Brunstane and 510 for Broomhills.

Sir David Murray’s £1 billion “Garden District” plan for 3500 homes beyond the City Bypass was excluded from the blueprint.

One council source said: “A lot of the SNP’s councillors come from the west of the city and if they are not seen to fight for these areas the chance of them losing their seats is quite high. Labour has a lot less to lose there.”

Another insider added: 
“Labour is strong in the south-east, where the Brunstane and Broomhills sites are, and it would look bad if they allowed the SNP to block developments in the west and Labour was not seen to be standing up for their areas.”

Despite the recommendation from officials, both the SNP and Labour are ready to allow some development of the proposed Garden District.

But if the compromise – which would include further assessment of the Garden District scheme – is agreed, the officials’ proposed version of the blueprint would become the effective operating plan for the meantime.

That would mean plans to build on sites in the west could be approved while other applications which did not fit with the recommendations would face being turned down.

An insider said: “The coalition could be under serious strain. Labour does not want to give in to the SNP. But if the SNP agrees to the Labour compromise, half its own group will not be happy. Why would they change their position to keep Labour happy if it ends up splitting their own group?”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com