Garden district plans for Capital back in business

Development: Land to the west of the city is earmarked in the Garden District plans. Picture: Julie Bull
Development: Land to the west of the city is earmarked in the Garden District plans. Picture: Julie Bull
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HUNDREDS of family homes, a new primary school and a network of roads and streets would be built under plans for the first phase of a £1 billion “Garden District” in the Capital.

Developers have submitted proposals for 1500 homes which they said would turn land next to Edinburgh Park and the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters at Gogarburn into a “Cambridge-style growth area” capable of powering the city’s wider economic expansion.

A quarter of the initial development – 375 properties – will be affordable housing, with the remainder split between private homes and apartments.

Drawn up by Murray Estates, Sir David Murray’s development firm, the plan is part of a larger project which could see up to 6000 homes built in the west of Edinburgh, amid official estimates that around 48,000 will be needed across the Capital over the next decade.

The overall plan also features a 60-acre National Garden – known as the Calyx – which would include water features and research facilities. Murray Estates said they would aim to have diggers on site for the first phase by 2017 if planning approval is secured.

Confirmation that a formal application has been filed comes after Edinburgh’s local development plan (LDP) – a housing blueprint covering the entire city – was signed off earlier this year, despite being called “mince” by deputy council leader Sandy Howat.

Green figures have slammed the Garden District submission, branding it an attempt to “raid” the under-pressure greenbelt. But the developers said the proposal would help Edinburgh meet a “significant proportion” of its housing need in order to achieve long-term economic growth.

They also stressed they were offering a public consultation they described as “one of the most comprehensive and wide-reaching of any housing development in the city”.

Jestyn Davies, managing director at Murray Estates, said: “Edinburgh and its neighbouring councils have set out ambitious plans to help grow the population by 200,000 over the next 20 years, and we see our proposals as one of the first to help achieve the council’s targets.

“Everyone knows that Edinburgh has a massive shortfall in housing supply and the council has set out a clear vision for the delivery of major new housing developments in ‘growth areas’ based on the proposals being taken forward in Cambridge.

“Our proposals can help turn that vision into a reality.”

Murray Estates said that, with three tram stops and Edinburgh Park railway station close by, the Garden District site was perfectly placed to accommodate the development’s scale.

Stressing that the first phase would support 250 jobs and inject around £315 million into essential infrastructure such as schools, Mr Davies added: “The plans propose developing areas in close proximity to Heriot-Watt research park, with the Garden District ideally placed to link with and serve the Heriot-Watt campus.

“The site is within a strategic development area, it is close to the tram line and we can deliver the entire necessary infrastructure to turn the council’s vision into bricks and mortar.

“Our proposals are ‘shovel ready’ and can be the first of the new ‘growth zones’ in the Edinburgh area.”

Submission of the plans comes amid uncertainty for development in other parts of the city.

In June, ministers confirmed they had thrown out proposals for 670 homes on greenbelt land at Cammo after protests by residents and lobbying by SNP politicians and others.

The Scottish Government said the application had been refused because it could prejudice a decision on the LDP.

It also emerged that councillors came close to removing Cammo and other areas from the masterplan and instead allocating land situated within the proposed Garden District.

Although that idea was abandoned at the last minute, councillors did add a motion referring to the merits of the Cammo objections when they passed the LDP.

Residents’ groups said building on land with sufficient transport infrastructure “made sense”.

A Cammo Residents Association spokeswoman said: “We have never argued on the basis that we want to stop construction – Edinburgh needs new homes. What we have argued is that those homes should not be built on the Cammo fields. Our roads, transport and schools infrastructure is not adequate.

“We’re all concerned about the environment, but our main argument has been focussed on infrastructure and air quality. And those issues are not there at the Garden District.

“Some might accuse us of nimbyism but I think we’ve put together a very robust argument based on infrastructure issues.”

Green figures said the Garden District submission gave cause for concern.

Councillor Nigel Bagshaw, Green planning spokesman, said: “This is just the latest speculative jab in the battle over the greenbelt.

“It is a battle over competing visions of the city – one which gives priority to compact neighbourhoods with excellent public transport, affordable housing and good local services, or one which sprawls outwards in anonymous suburbs.”

He added: “The truth is that Edinburgh already has land identified for over 10,000 homes.

“It is the staggering failure by private developers to bring forward that land, to build affordable homes and to concentrate on brownfield sites which is at fault. That is where the focus should be, not raiding the greenbelt.”

• 675-acre bid to transform capital

THE original Garden District “masterplan” – revealed by the News in 2013 – contained proposals for 3500 family homes, university and business villages, and a Scottish national garden, which would be built beyond the bypass.

Murray Estates, which controls more than 675 acres of land to the west of the city, wants to develop the urban district to incorporate a new high school and three primaries, plus other local amenities.

The 60-acre garden complex, dubbed the Calyx, would boast themed green areas, water features and research facilities as part of a £25 million concept.

A sports hub could become a new home for Edinburgh Rugby under the plans.

The business village would see 1500 homes built in walking distance of Edinburgh Park and the International Business Gateway, in the hope of attracting staff and their families to live there, lifting pressure on the transport network.

The “university village” with 1400 properties is so-called because of its close proximity to Heriot-Watt.

Developers said the development – located next to the RBS headquarters and the Gyle shopping centre – would create 900 jobs.