Comment: Communities must be able to scrutinise plan

File picture: Ian White

File picture: Ian White

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TAKING the entire population of a town the size of Haddington and moving them in to a new neighbourhood would obviously cause problems.

An influx of 18,000 people into an area of just five miles square – as is being proposed in the south-east of the city – will totally change the surrounding communities. That is one heck of a lot of extra cars on the roads, pupils in classrooms, sick people in doctors’ surgeries, and so on. The impact on existing residents is potentially huge.

Of course Edinburgh is a growing city with more people wanting to move here each year for the job opportunities and quality of life that we have to offer. That is a good thing. We need young professional people and their families to come to Edinburgh to run our hospitals and other essential services, as well as the private firms that create the jobs many of us rely on.

It is much better to live in a booming city than one which is on a downward spiral, but a booming city brings its own challenges. One of the biggest is managing its growth.

Can the south-east of the city accommodate so many new homes? That is certainly questionable.

The first priority of the city is clearly to finalise a robust development plan that will allow it to take control of the process back from the developers. At the moment, it is simply too easy for housebuilders to appeal to the Scottish Government when the local authority says no, and win the right to build on appeal. That will give the city the authority it needs to knock back specific developments that will damage the local area while giving the go-ahead to new homes in the best places.

That on its own though is not enough. The local communities who will bear the brunt of the problems if these planning decisions are mishandled need a greater voice.

When hundreds of new homes are being planned on land such as the Waterfront and the proposed Garden District, the housebuilders are obliged to carry out extensive public consultation. There are presentations and surveys to ensure that local residents understand what is being proposed for their neighbourhood.

The scale of what is being proposed in southh-east Edinburgh is far bigger than any city housing scheme in living memory. The local communities deserve the chance to give these plans the same level of scrutiny.