Comment: Council must use power it was granted

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There is a deep irony in the announcement that Edinburgh City Council will defer a decision on the already delayed Local Development Plan (LDP2) for the Capital.

This document – essentially a blueprint that indicates where new land has been earmarked for housing – is one of the key methods by which local authorities can plan for the future. New houses mean pressure on schools, roads and other infrastructure.

With Edinburgh’s population growing steadily, and housebuilders knocking at the door to start their next project, you might think the council would be keen to sort this out.

After all, without a plan, developers can still apply to build and then appeal straight to the Scottish Government if refused. The result? Piecemeal development which the local authority has less control over.

Councillors today stand accused of deliberately deferring the completion of this LDP2 plan until after the general election. Essentially, no political party wants to tell local residents that their area has been zoned for more housing. That’s not the sort of policy that wins elections.

But councils can’t have it both ways.

In recent months there have been growing voices in local government complaining about the centralisation of public life under the current SNP administration.

The single national police force, council tax freeze and recent fight over teacher numbers have led to accusations that Holyrood is grabbing power from local authorities.

Yet here, on an issue that will affect every single person who lives in the Edinburgh area, and many thousands beyond, the council is happy to defer a decision and allow the Scottish Government to rule on individual planning applications.

No wonder the poor electorate is confused.

Edinburgh City Council needs to take the decisions it was elected to take – and suffer the consequences. Passing the buck is doing no-one any favours.