Alison Johnson is clearly a doughty campaigner, but I’m afraid her opposition to new family homes won’t make housing more affordable for any Edinburgh residents (Garden District doesn’t address affordability, Evening News, September 24); rather it will push prices up and force people to live outside the city. The Garden District proposals have been carefully planned over the last five years and are fully in line with the council’s proposals for a City Deal.
A city deal which the Greens support, I hasten to add, and one which envisages another 200,000 people living in the Edinburgh region. Those people need to live somewhere, and at present the city still has a huge shortfall in family housing. Where those people are going to live is a huge strategic issue for Edinburgh. Our proposals will create 375 new affordable houses, one of the biggest single developments of affordable housing in the city for many years. Affordable housing is a central part of our vision and will help tackle the very issue of people living in temporary accommodation that Alison highlights.
Whilst Alison is right to say that we all need a roof over our heads and a place to call home, I feel that I have to point out that thousands more residents will get just that opportunity if and when the Garden District proposals can be agreed. We are pleased to already have the support of the planning committee in principle to the Garden District, and will work hard in the coming weeks to convince the committee that this is indeed an idea whose time has come.
Edinburgh’s Garden District is at one of the best served places in Scotland for public transport access, with easy access to a choice of buses, trains and the tram. Indeed, building houses outside Edinburgh as Alison appears to advocate will inevitably result in more people jumping in cars and driving into Edinburgh. It’s do-able, but certainly not a “green” or the most sustainable solution.
Our current application also preserves almost half (44 per cent) of the site as green space to form a new linear park, and helps encourage people to live an active lifestyle with easy access to walking, running and cycling facilities. Inactivity is a major health issue, and as we have seen, events like the Commonwealth Games are not the best way of encouraging people to take up exercise. Edinburgh’s Garden District will even have a pathway network marked by distance to help people plan their own exercise regime.
The changeover from farmland to parkland and housing will also be good for wildlife as well. Parkland is a better habitat for wildlife than farmland and gardens are equally good habitats for wildlife according to recent research.
Edinburgh’s Garden District offers a unique opportunity to create a more sustainable lifestyle and at the same time increase the supply of housing in Edinburgh to help make the city a much more affordable place to stay for people who want to buy or rent housing. An approach based on rationing housing sites and introducing rent controls won’t provide so much as a single new family home in Edinburgh, and will simply drive up the already high house prices, whilst putting more pressure on green spaces around existing local communities along the Lanark Road corridor and elsewhere.
Jestyn Davies is managing director of Murray Estates