Plan ‘protects communities’ from unwanted homes

Joanna Mowat. Picture: Toby Williams
Joanna Mowat. Picture: Toby Williams
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A HOUSING blueprint approved by councillors will protect existing communities across the Capital from unwanted extra homes, city leaders have insisted.

Planning convener Ian Perry said that if the council had not backed the latest version of the Local Development Plan (LDP), it would have left the door open for developers to build on the green belt.

But opposition councillors said the plan put “developer greed above housing need” and called for a complete rethink, including a bigger emphasis on brownfield sites.

The LDP has caused widespread controversy by proposing hundreds of additional homes in the west of the city, including Cammo, Maybury, Currie, Balerno, Juniper Green and South Queensferry, as well as Brunstane in the south-east.

The city’s ruling Labour-SNP coalition earlier came close to collapse after the two groups fell out over the plans.

But they agreed a compromise, to back the plan with the proviso officials take a fresh look at land near Gogar – part of Sir David Murray’s Garden District proposal – as a potential alternative to some of the controversial sites.

The planning committee yesterday backed the compromise by eight votes to four, but vice-convener, SNP councillor Sandy Howat left the room just before the vote was taken.

Later he said: “I felt unwell and I was confident of the way the vote would go.”

Councillor Perry acknowledged the concerns about the proposed sites, but said it was vital to have an LDP in order to have any control.

He said: “If we took sites out at this stage we would not reach our target and we would not have a plan. Any application which came forward would almost certainly win on appeal. The only way to build flexibility into this is to find other land.”

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said he was frustrated by the decision. He said: “I believe this is based on taking at face value what developers want rather than what the city needs.

“Yes, Edinburgh urgently needs more affordable housing, but well-connected to existing services, transport and communities, not spread out in more suburban sprawl. The LDP puts developer greed above housing need.”

Conservative planning spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said the sites proposed in the plan would overload the infrastructure in the west of the city, causing traffic gridlock and diminishing the appeal of the area.

She called for a new plan, prioritising development of brownfield sites and increasing density to reduce the amount of land which would have to be taken out of the green belt.

“Once land is released, that’s it for ever,” she said. We will never get it back.

“We must make it clear that development must be along public transport accessible corridors in well-designed housing which allows access to good-quality green space.”