Martin Hannan: Let’s unbuckle our green belt

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When will we stop kidding ourselves about the supposedly inviolate green belt around Edinburgh? It’s been in the News again because of plans by Sir David Murray’s company Murray Estates to build a £1 billion Garden District on the land which he controls to the west of the city.

I really hope the former owner of Rangers gets this project right, because I believe it would be a very attractive addition to the housing stock of Edinburgh.

In fact, I hope Murray Estates and the other developers who all have plans for the west side of the city get the go-ahead because, frankly, I do not believe the so-called green belt should include the land alongside Herriot-Watt University or the strips of land down towards Gogarburn, where any such consideration of green issues evaporated as soon as RBS said it might go elsewhere if not allowed to build its global headquarters – aka Goodwin Palace.

I can see the point of preserving the green belt south of the bypass towards the Pentlands, and I can see that developments out towards South Queensferry would destroy the essential character of the land south of the Firth of Forth. The immediate west side, however, doesn’t even look like green belt land, and the best approach would be for Edinburgh council to get together with West Lothian and devise a plan to allow developments on a corridor between Livingston and Edinburgh Park.

The usual campaigners will no doubt oppose any development on the green belt for their own selfish reasons, and they have every right to do so. Yet there comes a time when such campaigners need to be overruled for the greater good of the nation. Yes, there is plenty of brownfield land which could be developed, but that is diminishing fast and the time is approaching when we will need to grasp the issue of development on the green belt so the economic progress of the Lothians is not hindered.

It is a simple fact that people want to live in new houses surrounded by green areas – just look where housebuilders want to build and you can 
see that’s true, as they are only responding to demand. So the solution must be for everyone involved to take a long hard look at what needs to be preserved in order to maintain the essential character of Edinburgh. Then a proper plan must be drawn up which allows housing and a measure of industrial, retail and office development to take place in areas adjacent to existing development.

The west side of the city is just such an area and for the life of me I cannot see why anyone continues to object to sensible development in the area between the M8 and the A8 west of the bypass.

It is crying out to become something that could be very special, perhaps even a New New Town. Get in the best town planners and architects in the world, people with a proven track record of sensitive development, and we can see Edinburgh expand westwards in a wonderful fashion.

I doubt anyone in local politics has the vision to see the possibilities of such a scheme, but let’s hope that at least they will come up with 
suggestions that we can all live with.

Who will get the mayhem blame?

The announcement that the

roadworks associated with the trams will be finished in five weeks or so was greeted with hollow laughter across the city.

At long last our nightmare may soon be at an end, but the completion of the tram works will only highlight something that I’ve been pointing out for some time now – that the trams are not the only culprits causing mayhem with roadworks in Edinburgh.

Indeed, while the trams’ builders may be the worst offenders, our utility companies have been

digging up the city willy-nilly for years knowing that the trams will take the blame.

Now we will see who the real miscreants are, and perhaps people will start to ask why these roadworks are not better planned.

Police rally numbers just don’t add up

According to Police Scotland, a little over 8300 people turned up for the Independence March and Rally on Saturday which sadly I couldn’t attend as I was working.

The organisers claimed 20,000 people were there. As an SNP member, I should be furious that the police downgraded the numbers, but I’m not angry at all as there is simply some confusion at play.

From looking at all the hundreds of images of the day it is clear that something like 10,000 people started the march but by the end, double that number had joined in.

Grin and bear it for baby koala

dID you not have a good laugh when it was revealed that Edinburgh Zoo had hosted the first birth of a koala in the UK.

All that money and all that time spent on the pandas, and along comes a wee koala joey to steal the thunder of our black-and-white chums. I’m heading for the queue to see the joey now.

Run into the ground

In the wake of Edinburgh’s win in the contest to host the new National Performance Centre for Sport, can someone please do something about the depressing ruin that is Meadowbank?