THE consultation exercise into the Local Development Plan has proved to be nothing more than a sham, says Paul Nolan.
Only Edinburgh’s planning committee could decide to permit new housing on sites nobody wants built on but not to allow new homes to be built on land where people do want them.
This was the bizarre result last Thursday of the year-long ponderings about the city’s Local Development Plan to build 33,000 houses over the next ten years.
For two hours at their meeting, planning councillors and officials may have listened but certainly did not hear a word said by ten deputations from all over Edinburgh protesting against the destruction of 20 areas of beautiful green belt, open space and historic sites of enormous national archaeological importance.
Instead, councillors stuck to the script and approved the Labour/SNP coalition “Capital Motion” cobbled together the previous Monday. They chose to bulldoze aside any other opinions, destroying forever some of our city’s best green and pleasant lands, at the same time giving a nice little earner to the council’s own property development company, EDI, which has the land at Brunstane Farm. The innovative and sensible Garden City proposal, where new homes are needed and wanted and where good road, rail and tram links already exist, was kicked into the long grass.
At the planning meeting, top marks must go to Tory councillor Dominic Heslop, who exposed the hypocrisy of Labour and SNP councillors shedding crocodile tears over what’s happening to their local areas when three days earlier they had already agreed the “Capital Motion”.
As this was a planning matter it should have been a free vote of all city council members, with councillors exercising their own individual judgment, not being subject to a party whip. Even the dogs in the street know that the successful “Capital Motion” had more to do with keeping the Labour/SNP coalition intact than any proper planning process
It would be the biggest miracle since Moses parted the Red Sea if so many houses could actually be built in this timescale.
Land agreed for housebuilding in the last ten-year plan has still not been used yet city planners have slavishly followed without question Scottish Government planners’ dictates that this is what must be done. For any plan to be credible it must be workable. The new Local Development Plan has fallen at the first fence.
Edinburgh’s housing situation could have been a lot better if planners had not given in to the owners of Leith Docks and agreed to scrap proposals to build thousands of homes in that area where there is no green belt or open space concerns.
There has been no proper audit of brownfield sites or other alternatives such as the now half-empty supermarket car parks and indeed abandoned superstore proposals. In their rush to please Scottish Government ministers, our city’s planners have gone for the easy option of just looking at a map and sticking pins in blank spaces regardless of the environmental costs or consequences.
The last year was a golden opportunity to fully involve Edinburgh’s many community groups in a participatory exercise with agreed and achievable realistic housing targets which would have produced a consensual plan for the city. Instead, the year was a chaotic shambles with the public given only 42 days’ consultation on a plan that will change their local communities forever. Meetings were called then cancelled without explanation. Finally on last Thursday, led by Councillor Ian Perry, there must have been half a million pounds worth of council officials sitting around the table. They would struggle to organise a children’s birthday party.
Whilst the planning committee meeting may have been held in public, it was far from open and transparent, just an endorsement of behind-the-scenes party political stitch-ups which made the consultation exercise a complete and utter cynical sham.
Paul Nolan is a member of Craigmillar Community Council