Labour threaten to end city council coalition

Members of the Cammo Residents Assocation, along with residents from the Cameo Gardens and Maybury areas have protested development in their locales. Picture by JANE BARLOW

Members of the Cammo Residents Assocation, along with residents from the Cameo Gardens and Maybury areas have protested development in their locales. Picture by JANE BARLOW

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EDINBURGH’S Labour leader Andrew Burns is said to have threatened to end his party’s coalition with the SNP in a row over land for housing.

The two groups, who have been running the city together since the council elections in 2012, were at loggerheads over the planning blueprint which earmarks areas for development for the next 20 years.

But rather than lose their place in the administration, the Nationalists have now agreed a compromise which will see controversial decisions on the Local Development Plan (LDP) put off until February next year.

The SNP had been pressing for several sites in the west of the city to be removed from the proposed masterplan. But it is understood Labour was arguing in favour of the recommendations by planning officials, which include hundreds of new homes around Cammo, Maybury, Currie and Balerno.

The split came to a head in a series of meetings at the City Chambers yesterday when Councillor Burns is said to have warned he would scrap the partnership unless the SNP agreed to the compromise, which includes a pledge to look for alternative plots to replace the contentious sites.

It is understood SNP councillors with wards in the west put up a passionate argument within their own group to stick to their demand for the sites to be deleted now. But an SNP insider claimed postponing a final decision until February may offer better protection for the sites because if they are removed from the blueprint at that stage it will show it is the result of a full process of consideration.

The insider said Cllr Burns had told SNP group leader Steve Cardownie that if the Nationalists did not accept the compromise, he would dissolve the coalition.

“The message was that Labour had moved towards our position and if we did not move towards theirs, the coalition was finished,” the source said.

“We felt the interests of the city were better served if the SNP continued to have an influence in the administration rather than collapsing a coalition agreement with three years still to run.

“We believe we have taken a reasonable political decision in the circumstances. Labour say they are aware of the sensitivity of these sites and will work with us to see if they are still robust enough to go into the plan.”

The LDP is now expected to be approved at the planning committee on Thursday with a series of caveats ahead of the review in February.

And a source said if in the meantime a planning application for one of the areas in question was turned down by the council, it was hoped that the planning reporters who deal with appeals would recognise there was a process under way and not overturn the decision.