Council planning delay puts infrastructure at risk

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Dozens of school and transport building projects across the Capital have been put on ice because of delays to a vital city planning blueprint.

Work to determine the catchment areas of new schools catering for thousands of new homes, to prepare for improvements to congested road junctions and to design new footpaths and cycleways has yet to begin – four years after first being set out.

We are very, very concerned about the roads infrastructure, and we haven’t seen anything in all the material that’s been produced that makes us feel that those issues are going to be addressed.”

Cammo Residents’ Association

Senior councillors dramatically ditched discussions on the second Local Development Plan (LDP) from the agenda of last week’s planning committee meeting, amid fierce criticism that planning convener Ian Perry was “passing the buck” to the Scottish Government, which will now decide whether controversial proposals should go forward.

The projects are on hold despite the LDP process getting under way as long ago as 2011, and even though councillors have signed off funds to begin preparations.

Planning experts and developers say the whole LDP process is on a knife edge, with one telling the Evening News that it could “collapse like a house of cards”.

The works are all listed in the LDP Action Plan, a breakdown of all the projects needed to provide vital infrastructure for thousands of homes the city is required to build.

Much of the work would be paid for through contributions from developers. However, firms hoping to build homes say that city planners should have begun preparatory work – which is funded by the council – years ago. Many projects would provide relief to already-congested roads and schools, or deliver improvements to paths and cycleways.

The list of dozens of frozen infrastructure works include overhauling congested junctions at Maybury, Craigs Road, Barnton and Gilmerton Road; pedestrian paths and cycleways at Cammo, Maybury and Newcraighall; extensions to ten primaries and at least six secondaries; and four entirely new primary schools and nurseries.

If the city fails to sign off an LDP after years of wrangling, critics warn it could face “planning by appeal”, where developers effectively bypass the democratic planning process at the council and attempt to have their developments signed off by the Scottish Government instead.

As the first such planning application was submitted, opposition councillors warned of a “flood” of developers looking to take advantage of the city’s failure to sign off the LDP.

Residents at Cammo – who are opposing plans for new housing in their area over fears of traffic gridlock on already congested roads – said they have repeatedly called for a plan to deal with congestion in event of development going forward.

A spokeswoman for the Cammo Residents’ Association said: “We are very, very concerned about the roads infrastructure, and we haven’t seen anything in all the material that’s been produced that makes us feel that those issues are going to be addressed.”

Developers have seized on the lack of progress in determining how many school places would be required to accommodate thousands of new homes in an effort win their appeals.

Lawyers acting on behalf of housebuilders hoping to construct 670 homes at Cammo have written to the Scottish Government to argue that the council has failed to determine how many school places would be needed, and how much developers should contribute to pay for new schools.

In a submission to planning minister Alex Neil, obtained by the Evening News, law firm Brodies says: “It is unacceptable that the council should not be able to say what specific infrastructure contribution might be required, let alone produce evidence for that requirement, for a site that has been allocated for housing in the emerging local development plan for two years, and for which an application was accepted by the council in May last year, particularly given the substantial shortfall in the housing land supply and the urgent need to bring sites forward.

“The appellants are willing to contribute to education infrastructure should the contribution be identified and evidence be produced… the council have failed to say what education contribution it considers ought to be provided or for what educational infrastructure, or provide evidence.”

Conservative planning spokeswoman councillor Joanna Mowat said she expected a “flood” of new applications from developers looking to take advantage of the lack of an agreed LDP, and warned that if the Scottish Government approved them, the council would have little time to secure Section 75 agreements with developers setting out how much they would contribute towards the cost of new schools and roads.

Cllr Mowat said: “My biggest worry is that we could end up with a situation where we approve planning permission, but we cannot approve sufficient Section 75 funds to mitigate those planning applications.

“You could have houses being built without the additional school places and transport infrastructure needed to support them.”

One planner contacted by the Evening News warned that, because school catchment reviews can take up to 12 months, even if an agreement is reached on the LDP it could be years before work on infrastructure gets off the ground.

Cllr Perry told the Evening News: “We are continuing to develop our Action Programme which identifies the steps that need to be taken to ensure the LDP is successfully delivered. Our work to date has identified a number of actions across the city including new schools and improvements to roads.”

Developers move over plan delay

DEVELOPERS have declared their intention to build roughly 150 homes at Drum Street, in what is seen as the first response to the city’s failure to sign off the crucial planning blueprint.

The second Local Development Plan (LDP2) was supposed to have been agreed last week by the city planning committee, but was pulled off the agenda.

The move has raised fears that developers will bypass the planning process by seeking approval from the Scottish Government, which has already called in an appeal from developers seeking to build homes at Cammo.

Planning rules state that, in the absence of an up-to-date plan, there is a “presumption” in favour of “sustainable development”.

Planner Robin Holder, who is acting on behalf of developers SEEDCo at Drum Street, said: “I’m a supporter of the plan-led process, but a position has been reached where, our view, frankly, the plan appears not to be progressing and we have therefore decided to deal with this by way of a planning application.

“It was being considered, but the failure to move on with the local plan was the thing that really crystallised the decision to submit it.”

Gilmerton & Inch Community Council chairman Eric Dobbie said that developers shouldn’t be permitted to circumvent the planning process by appealing to the Scottish Government while the LDP2 is still in the process of being signed off.

He said: “They are breaking all the protocols. Government says it’s council, council says it’s government. The whole thing is a shambles.

“The whole thing is totally flawed.”

MAYBURY/CAMMO

TRANSPORT ACTIONS

• Maybury Junction

• Craigs Road Junction

• Barnton Junction

• Cammo Walk North

• Pedestrian crossing facilities on Maybury Road/pedestrian cycle connections to east

EDUCATION ACTIONS

• New Maybury Primary School and 60/60 nursery

• Extension to Gylemuir Primary School and 40/40 nursery

• Extension to Hillwood Primary School

• West Edinburgh high schools extension

• Extension to Fox Covert RC Primary

• Extension to St Augustines (RC) High

LIBERTON/GILMERTON

TRANSPORT ACTIONS

• Burdiehouse Junction

• Gilmerton Crossroads

• Gilmerton Road/Drum Street junction capacity upgrade

• Old Burdiehouse Road to Burdiehouse Burn path link

• A720 underpass – Burdiehouse Burn path link

• Cycle/orbital public transport link alongside Laswade Road

• Drum Street to SE Wedge parkland – cycle link

EDUCATION ACTIONS

• New Gilmerton South primary school and 30/30 nursery

• New Broomhill primary school and 40/40 nursery

• Extension to Gilmerton Primary School

• Extension to Liberton and Craigour Park if required due to catchment changes

• Extension to south-east Edinburgh high schools

• Extension to St John’s Vianney RC Primary School

• Extension to St Catherine’s RC Primary School

NEWCRAIGHALL

TRANSPORT ACTIONS

• Newcraighall North and East sites

• Improve pedestrian/cycle crossing facilities on Milton Road East and Newcraighall Road

• Increase secure cycle parking at Brunstane and Newcraighall Stations

EDUCATION ACTIONS

• Option 1 – new Brunstane Primary School and 40/40 nursery

• Option 2 – as option 1, but additional two-class extension to Newcraighall Primary School

• Extension to Castlebrae High School

• Replacement Castlebrae High School

QUEENSFERRY

TRANSPORT ACTIONS

• Pedestrian/cycle route to Dalmeny Station including a new route crossing the A90

• South Scotstoun – east/west cycle route through site to allow realignment of existing NCR

EDUCATION ACTIONS

• New Builyeon Road primary school and 40/40 nursery

• Extension to Queensferry High School School and 40/40 nursery

• Two-class extension to St Margaret’s RC Primary School

• Extension to St Augustine’s RC High School

SOUTH-WEST

TRANSPORT ACTIONS

• Gillespie Crossroads

• Hermiston Park & Ride

• Improve high quality pedestrian/cycle link to Curriehill Station

• Upgrade cycle routes between Newmills Road and Water of Leith

EDUCATION ACTIONS

• Five-class extension to Currie Primary School