Developer scraps plan key to Wester Hailes overhaul

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A HOUSING developer has pulled the plug on plans to transform a long-vacant gap site that was central to hopes of regeneration in Wester Hailes.

Prospect Community Housing has pulled out of plans to build up to 150 homes on the former site of high-rise flats at Harvester’s Way because it judged the scheme not viable.

The news is a major blow to the city council, which had hoped the development would work well alongside NHS Lothian’s plans to turn a neighbouring site into an innovative new £12 million Healthy Living Centre.

Prospect, which has been involved in talks about developing the site for around a decade, was put off by an estimated £1 million of “exceptional costs”, including contributions towards infrastructure and ‘public realm’ improvements.

Council officials asked the company to confirm its commitment to the site before formal confirmation of some costs, which would have been discussed after a detailed planning application was submitted.

Carol Cawood, a director of Prospect, said: “It is a complex and expensive site to develop and our quantity surveyor has estimated that it would have costs of more than £1 million, which we believe is more than the site is worth.

“We were asked [by the council] ‘could we commit’ and we have looked at all the options and we feel we are not able to commit at this stage.

“We were asked for our business case to make a commercial decision and our committee felt that there is not a business case and the scheme is only viable after a 25-year period, so we came to the decision that it does not make sense.

“The reason we hung in so long is we have never looked at it as a commercial decision – it is important for Wester Hailes and it has been vacant for 25 years and we have championed the site for ten years – so it is very disappointing.”

The company had been hoping to present a planning application for the development within weeks.

Work on the Healthy Living Centre by NHS Lothian and the council is already under way and will include the Wester Hailes Medical Practice, a range of NHS Lothian community health services, council staff from the health and social care and children and families departments and local voluntary organisation the Wester Hailes Health Agency.

Nearly 110 homes have already been developed on the site by Places For People.

A city council spokesman said: “There are a number of excellent housing associations in the city. It is perfectly normal that some organisations will decide it is not feasible to take forward certain developments.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com