Planners have ‘gun to their heads’ over Green belt

City Center Councillor Joanna Mowat claims planners are under  extreme pressure over development of the green belt. Pic: Toby Williams
City Center Councillor Joanna Mowat claims planners are under extreme pressure over development of the green belt. Pic: Toby Williams
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A HOUSING masterplan likely to release a tranche of greenbelt to developers has been rubber-stamped despite claims planners had a “gun pressed against their head”.

Edinburgh has signed up to a controversial housing roadmap that will pave the way for an extra 29,000 homes to be built over the next decade.

The expected housebuilding boom will heap pressure on the city to unlock greenbelt land for development – with a Local Development Plan meeting to earmark which plots postponed until June 12.

West and south-west Edinburgh are believed to be prime sites for additional housing, sparking concern among residents that their district does not have the transport infrastructure to cope with such a population rise.

The need for the extra housing has been identified by the Scottish Government as population estimates predict the number of people living in the Capital will rise by more than a quarter over the coming years.

But some have questioned the forecasts which say 100,000 new homes will be needed in south-east Scotland over the next decade. Critics claim the projection is “hugely over-inflated” and census statistics used to calculate housing demand are outdated.

Planning committee rebels have threatened to thwart the plan, insisting it should be redrawn more accurately.

Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said: “We are being asked to release more land than we have to – land we want to protect.

“It’s like we’re up against a wall with a gun to our heads. In fact, it’s a firing squad saying ‘go and take a bullet for the city’. This is not developing the city in the best way.”

But despite objections from the Greens and Conservatives – who lost the ballot by nine votes to four – the committee signed off the development plan after a passionate speech by planning convenor Ian Perry.

He said dumping the plan would create “a huge risk” of the city being left powerless to stop planning applications on greenbelt land because if the city has no coheret housing blueprint developers will find it easy to overturn the council’s planning decisions on appeal.

Cllr Perry said: “I appreciate releasing greenfield land for housing is contentious but if we want Edinburgh to grow then 
we have to provide more housing.

“We have brownfield land capable of accommodating more than 15,000 new homes, but unfortunately this is not enough to satisfy the demand.”

But Cllr Nigel Bagshaw, planning spokesman for Edinburgh Greens, branded the Local Development Plan a “charter for unfettered growth” with a huge impact on future size and the greenbelt.

He said: “In my view the figures for new house-building are hugely over-inflated, way beyond current and likely levels of building and could be accommodated within the city and on brownfield sites and existing homes.

“So it is yes to more affordable housing – but in compact neighbourhoods which are built around walking, cycling and public transport; and where providing services and facilities is much easier.

“The LDP does not do that.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com