Shawfair back on as land sold

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A HOUSING development on Midlothian’s border with Edinburgh looks set to be revived as council chiefs prepare to cash in on land they own.

The city council and Midlothian Council are in the process of selling their land holdings in the Shawfair site on the Capital’s “south-east wedge” for a combined up-front payment of £6 million.

The sale, to a new consortium of private developers, is proposed in order to try to revive the ambitious £500m vision for a new town of 5000 homes, schools, parks and offices, on part of the former Monktonhall Colliery in Midlothian.

Council chiefs believe selling the land, rather than being part of a joint venture between the two authorities and a series of private developers, is the best way of progressing the plans, which have stalled 16 years after they were first announced.

Under the proposed deal, the two councils, which both own half of the massive site, would receive £3m each as an up-front payment from the consortium made up of developers Buccleuch Estates, Morston Assets and housebuilder Mactaggart and Mickel.

The deal currently on the table is also understood to secure each council a share of future profits made by the private firms, which could bring in another £20m for each council in the next ten to 15 years.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “This is a case of the council realising a capital receipt – but we still have a huge interest in what is happening there because we have a huge interest in the [nearby] Bioquarter.

“It is positive that people are interested and we are keen to see investment in Shawfair, which leads straight into the city and might generate employment opportunities for people in the city.”

Lothian Regional Council and the district councils of Midlothian and Edinburgh paid £1.18m to British Coal for the site in 1995, which means even the initial £3m sale will net the councils a profit. The site is currently valued at £9m but city chiefs remain confident that the longer-term income from the sale could bring in more than four times that valuation for the two councils.

Cllr Buchanan said the valuation would be much higher in a better economy, but said: “It is a realistic price given the current climate.”

A council report set to be published today said: “CEC Holdings has approved the disposal of Shawfair holdings to a consortium of the other main landowners for an up-front payment of £3m and a share in future returns. This will allow the wider development opportunity to be finally unlocked.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com