SoCo and Caltongate: ‘Development is encouraging for the future’

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The last 48 hours have seen significant steps taken in the effort to revive two of the Capital’s most depressing gap sites.

First, on Wednesday, city councillors approved plans for the SoCo site which has lain empty since the great Cowgate fire of 2002.

Despite sometimes pedantic criticism from opponents, work should start soon on a new hotel and shopping and leisure facilities as part of a £35m scheme which is expected to create 200 welcome jobs.

Then, yesterday, the council greenlighted the £3.4m sale of land and property which should pave the way for the much-delayed Caltongate scheme to finally get off the ground.

There remains some concern over the scale of this project, given the admission by the developers that it is likely to be “less ambitious” than the grand plan originally conceived by Mountgrange.

That means the investment will probably fall some way short of the promised £300m, while fewer than the anticipated 2000 jobs are likely to materialise.

For these reasons, plus the historic importance of the site, close interest will be needed during consultation for detailed planning application.

Even so, it is hard to see these developments at two hugely important city centre sites as anything other than very encouraging for the future.

SoCo insiders say they were impressed at how quickly and efficiently their plans were dealt with, given concerns of delays and heel- dragging in previous years.

The same approach can help deliver at Caltongate – and attract yet more investment to the city.

Signs of recovery

SO, the number of new jobs available in Edinburgh is at its highest since the boom years.

Given the amount of economic gloom about, that statistic is perhaps surprising. But the Capital has certainly been boosted by the recent arrival of big businesses, including Primark and Amazon.

And the continuing bouyancy of the financial services sector, boosted by new arrivals Tesco Bank and Virgin Money, has also played a significant part.

At the other end of the scale, local entrepreneurs continue to defy the economic downturn by starting the sort of small new businesses which are vital to continue to grow employment – we highlight one such example on page 26 today.

There may be a long, rocky road ahead but Edinburgh’s economy remains well placed to emerge strongly out of the current nationwide turmoil.