Martin Hannan: It’s green for go (if we fix roads)

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It looks like my prediction is coming true that the green belt to the west of the Capital would be the battleground for the future expansion of the city.

Edinburgh needs more homes – almost 30,000 of them according to Scottish Government figures – and the demand is for housing on the edge of the city. There’s little doubt that the major area for development is in the west.

The council knows this, and I think it is trying to find ways of allowing development of the green belt to take place without actually appearing to destroy green-belt principles. The pass was sold, however, the day that RBS got planning permission for its Gogarburn headquarters complex.

It wasn’t as controversial as it should have been at the time. The RBS plans drove a coach and horses through the whole green-belt structure, but the alternative of losing the headquarters to elsewhere – RBS could have gone to Glasgow – meant that the headquarters proposals were approved with relatively little fuss.

Bizarrely, Gogarburn is STILL in the green belt in the second Local Development Plan currently before the council and due for consideration by the planning committee in February. RBS has asked to be removed from the green belt, but that appears to have been turned down.

RBS actually did us all a favour by showing that a giant office development could be installed on what was effectively a green site in a sensitive manner. If the whole area around Gogar and the airport could be developed in similar fashion, with thousands of jobs being created, then nobody could really complain.

The problems start when you mention housing out west.

Make no mistake, the recent applications to build more than 2000 houses between Cammo and Maybury and the airport means that it is crunch time for how we want Edinburgh to grow as a city.

These applications were inevitable after the Local Development Plan basically invited developers to make their pitches. The local community, particularly in Cammo, is dead against any such large-scale development, and I have a great deal of sympathy with their views, not least because the traffic around the area is already a nightmare.

Until proper roads are provided in and around Cammo and Maybury, no further development should take place. The Maybury and Barnton junctions should be completely redesigned and a new relief road provided to the west of the A902 Maybury Road before any more houses are allowed.

The tinkering with roads envisaged in the council’s Maybury and Cammo Site Brief just doesn’t cut it. Major new roads must be built and I don’t think the council has the guts or the money to build them.

That’s just Cammo – wait until proposals come in for Currie and Balerno. Even as far away as the City Chambers, you’ll hear the local objections being shouted.

There are other areas of the green belt which could be given over to housing without too much fuss. In the Local Development Plan, there’s a great deal of concentration on sites for business out west, but why could some of these areas not be given over for housing?

It’s all very well providing an “International Business Gateway” but can someone say where the people who work there are going to live?

George will be sadly missed

I really am very sad at the death of George Monies, a former Edinburgh Labour councillor from the days when his party represented Scottish working people rather than the Home Counties middle classes.

Like many journalists of a certain age, George taught me about national and local government matters at Napier College, as it then was. He was always scrupulously fair in describing political developments, as his textbook on local government in Scotland showed.

Later in life, I had many a discussion with George and found that his politics were the genuine kind emanating from his sense of fairness. He’ll be missed.

Lamont feared being red-faced

As a member of the SNP, I should be rejoicing at the resignation of Johann Lamont from the leadership of the Labour Party’s “branch office” – her words, not mine – in Scotland.

I am a little sad, however, because I was looking forward to her being humiliated by Nicola Sturgeon on a weekly basis at First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Lamont resigned over London interference in Scottish Labour affairs. Methinks she also thought ahead to facing the new First Minister and jumped before she was embarrassed.

The name of Jim Murphy, below, has been touted as her replacement. Sorry, but is he not at Westminster?

Go on, Labour, give Jim the job and prove that Lamont was right about London control of the party in Scotland.

Well sett for no more cobbles

The council is apparently going to Tarmac over large areas of cobbled streets as the setts – to give them their proper name – are expensive to maintain.

The main historic areas with setts will keep them, so I for one can’t complain, as I don’t like cobbled streets and money has to be saved somewhere.

GOOD CALL

The new Apple Store is already proving a boon to local customers, and I have to commend Shane in the Genius Bar for fixing my iPhone. He really is a genius.