Green belt development ‘just like New Town’

Artist's impressions of the proposed 'garden district' planned for green belt land to the west of the Capital. Picture: contributed
Artist's impressions of the proposed 'garden district' planned for green belt land to the west of the Capital. Picture: contributed
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A VISION of a £1 billion “garden district” on green belt land has been compared with Edinburgh’s historic New Town as city planners were urged to have the same “courage” to approve the bold move.

Plans to create about 3500 homes in west Edinburgh around Hermiston village moved a step closer yesterday with the first paperwork submitted to the city council by developer Murray Estates.

It features a 50-acre garden complex known as the Calyx which would be part of the housing district and boast themed green areas, water features and research facilities.

A new business village would include 1500 homes and be built within walking distance of Edinburgh Park.

New schools, a conference centre, hotel and a sports hub are also part of the company’s masterplan.

Jestyn Davies, managing director of Murray Estates, said city planners needed to adopt the same bravery that paved the way for the New Town.

Overcrowding inside the Old Town city walls led to the decision to create the New Town, which was built in stages between 1765 and around 1850 and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Mr Davies said: “The time has come for planners in Edinburgh to have the same courage and vision that was shown when Lord Provost George Drummond succeeded in extending the city to take in the land upon which Edinburgh’s first New Town was built. Just like then, Edinburgh is struggling to meet the needs of its people, and ordinary working families increasingly look beyond the city boundaries for homes they can afford.

“To simply cram all of Edinburgh’s housing needs into land beside existing communities like Currie, Balerno, Ratho and Kirkliston would be sheer folly. These communities can’t be expected to take it all.”

However, Cockburn Association director Marion Williams labelled comparisons between the proposed garden district and the New Town as “absurd”.

She said: “The time has come for Mr Murray and his friends to cash in given the politics of building your way out of a recession. We will be fighting for the green belt with our lives. It has been eroded and it’s now under more threat than its ever been.”

Some campaigners view the garden district as the “better” of two evils when it comes to housing development, with the council needing to find space for an extra 8000 homes by 2024.

But Pentland Hills ward councillor Bill Henderson said the local road network would not be able to cope with thousands of new homes.

Public exhibitions on the district plans will be held at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Park, South Gyle and Wester Hailes in January.