Jestyn Davies: Housing shortage will be problem

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Councils in south-east Scotland face an unenviable task in allocating sites for new homes to meet the high demand caused by the area’s growing economy.

In just a few weeks, councils in the SESPlan (The Strategic Planning Authority for Edinburgh and South East ­Scotland) area meet to discuss the allocation of 107,500 homes between the east of Scotland councils.

This is a formidable task, and it is my firm belief that without the inclusion of the proposals for Edinburgh’s Garden District development, Edinburgh will fail to meet its share, especially when sites for 9000 homes that were planned for north Edinburgh are no longer available.

Allocating new sites for development is always tough, but simple arithmetic shows Edinburgh simply cannot find the sites for all of these extra homes without our proposals for the Garden District. And even if the city does try to, it will be taking decisions that could seriously impact upon its traditional suburban village communities. In past similar circumstances, the city fathers (and mothers) decided to build the first New Town.

Pushing more development outside the city is simply not a fair or ­sensible option, especially if we believe in sustainable development. Development outside Edinburgh will encourage more car use, and in the process, will push up CO2 emissions at a time when the political priorities are to reduce them.

The Garden District features plans for 3500 homes, all of which will be within five minutes of a bus service and 50 per cent of which will be within a 20-minute walk of the Edinburgh Tram. In addition, the entire area will be within a short walk of Scotland’s fourth commercial centre, Edinburgh Park, bringing together jobs and homes in one of the most sustainable sites in the UK.

We have set out our proposals honestly and openly. I challenge anyone to set out how else Edinburgh’s housing needs can be met without sacrificing the special qualities of our existing urban village communities.

We can also create our own Eden of the North’ – The Calyx, which will become Edinburgh’s fourth most visited paid attraction and we could create a new community stadium which will complement the superb new Scottish National Performance Centre for Sport at nearby Heriot-Watt University – in the green belt of west Edinburgh by the way. Officers have confirmed that our proposals are the only ones that contain any significant community benefit for Edinburgh.

We have been very encouraged by the response to our proposals so far, and we will be consulting widely in the coming months. Politicians and officers face very difficult decisions, but logic and sustainable development must drive decision making. The growing pains that Edinburgh faces will not be easy, but the alternative could potentially be far more ­damaging to the city and its traditional suburban village communities.

Edinburgh has chosen growth. It must now choose sustainable growth, and the Garden District is essential to make that happen.

Jestyn Davies is managing director of Murray Estates.