The new town of Shawfair being built from scratch in south-east Edinburgh will create 4000 homes in an unprecedented £200 million development that will also secure 4000 new jobs.
The 20-year project represents the biggest urban expansion of Edinburgh and the Lothians in modern times, creating a much needed new jobs boost and pumping almost £100m into the local economy each year once completed.
Four thousand new homes and one million square feet of commercial and retail space – the equivalent of twice the size of the existing St James Centre – will be built around a brand new train station at Shawfair. The plans for the site of the Monktonhall Colliery were first discussed almost two decades ago, but work is now finally set to begin.
The redevelopment will transform the south eastern “wedge” of disused land between Danderhall and the City Bypass into the lynchpin of the multi-million-pound rail link between the Capital and the Borders. Commuters will be just minutes away from the city centre once train services start running twice an hour in 2015.
The extent of the commercial and retail space at Shawfair is also likely to draw in shoppers and workers from the surrounding area.
Developers Buccleuch Property and Mactaggart & Mickel today announced work is set to get under way and are promising to build a vibrant community with five distinct neighbourhoods, three new schools with space for 2800 pupils and a community health centre. Around 700 of the new homes will be classed as affordable.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP today joined developers at Shawfair business park to announce the new project, which will straddle the border between Edinburgh and Midlothian.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government is committed to doing all that we can to support infrastructure investment and I am pleased to be here today to launch the Shawfair development.
“The venture will boost local employment, create jobs, support skills development and strengthen Scotland’s infrastructure. The fact that it will be accessible as part of the Borders rail route will make the project even more attractive.
“Shawfair is an impressive development with significant benefits to the local economy and community. Creating nearly 1000 full-time jobs during the construction phase and over 4000 upon completion, this project will provide countless opportunities, not only for the young apprentices joining us here today, but for those of the future.”
Pressure on urban and green space land in and around Edinburgh is increasing, so it is hoped Shawfair will provide an answer and help meet part of the region’s massive projected house building needs.
Andrew Mickel, of Shawfair LLP – the joint venture between the developers – said: “Our vision is to build a new self-sufficient community supported by a vibrant town centre with public amenities such as schools and a healthcare centre, transforming the area.”
Midlothian Council leader Owen Thompson said the construction employment news could not come at a better time. “As a council we have been very supportive of the Shawfair vision and look forward to it becoming a reality. As well as housing, this development will have a considerable number of amenities and facilities which will make it a great place to live,” he added.
Early designs for the £300m Borders Railway bypassed Shawfair entirely, but pressure from developers eager to capitalise on the site’s potential saw plans for the new station put back on the agenda. Experts now say the development at Shawfair will cement the role of the Borders Railway as a working commuter line for local residents.
Rail consultant and author David Spaven, who campaigned for the reinstatement of the Borders Railway, said he could not recall a similar development project based around a railway in Scotland.
“The idea of placing a railway station at the heart of a new development makes a lot of sense from both a transport and a sustainability point of view, and hopefully people will be able to walk in and cycle in, and not drive to catch the train. That would be the ideal situation.”
Mr Spaven added a significant part of the economic rationale for the railway was tied up in the success of home building plans at Shawfair, alongside transporting visitors between Edinburgh and the Borders.
He said: “There are two different markets – the Midlothian market and the Borders market – and they fulfil slightly different functions, but clearly the commuter element is going to be a very big part of the Midlothian side of things. It’s a short distance to Edinburgh, the bigger concentration of population is in Midlothian, and you would expect the most intensive use to be between Midlothian and Edinburgh.”
The new town at Shawfair has been almost 20 years in the making. Lothian Regional Council and the district councils of Midlothian and Edinburgh paid £1.18m to British Coal for the site of the former Monktonhall Colliery in 1995, hoping to redevelop it.
Those plans were abandoned in November 2010 when a joint town-building venture between Edinburgh and Midlothian councils was scrapped.
The process was revived in 2011 when the authorities entered into discussions with developers over the sale of publicly held land for £6m.
Everything new community needs
4000 new homes, 700 of which will be classed as ‘affordable’;
1,000,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, including a supermarket;
A new railway station;
Three new schools, including two 800-pupil primaries and a 1200 pupil secondary school;
A community health centre.