Builder told to stop work at site of possible tram

Work at the corner of Wester Coates and Balbirnie Place. Picture: Toby Williams
Work at the corner of Wester Coates and Balbirnie Place. Picture: Toby Williams
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DEVELOPERS were given the go-ahead for building work next to a potential future tram line after planners told them the extension would “not now be built”.

But now city officials have asked the developer to stop work on the strip of land at Roseburn while it investigates the potential impact on the tram route.

The firm behind the development at the corner of Wester Coates and Balbirnie Place says it has followed the planning permission which the council granted to the letter, but has agreed to put work on hold while the council completes its investigation.

The move comes as plans to extend the tram network are now being considered, including the revival of the axed “Granton Spur” linking Granton to a point near Murrayfield Stadium.

Officials at City Chambers now believe that landscaping work to an embankment next to the proposed Roseburn development – including the replacement of retaining walls and removal of trees – could impede any future tram extension by raising the cost of installing a line there.

Architectural firm McLaren, Murdoch & Hamilton said it was complying with the council’s request to halt work on the embankment. A spokesman said: “We reiterate that we are proceeding fully in accordance with the detailed planning consent and planning conditions which are public documents available on the council website.

“That consent and conditions require us to regrade the public cycle path to improve access for pedestrians, wheelchair users and cyclists, upgrade the street lighting on this section of the cycle path, and upgrade the landscape on the embankment between our client’s land and the safeguarded tram route at a total cost to our client of £80,000.

“If these works do not proceed at the council’s request that would not prevent completion of our development, but would obviously be a loss to the city and the ratepayers.”

The council said the developer has been asked to down tools as “proper consent was not obtained” prior to work beginning.

A spokeswoman said: “Our aim is to find a mutually agreeable long-term solution for both parties and we’re keen to work closely with the developer to achieve this.

“No decisions have been taken on future extensions to the tram line and at the time the [planning] report was drafted, the option of extending from Roseburn to Granton was not being considered.”

A report on future options for investment in public transport, including trams, will be published on November 26.

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said the safeguarded tram route should be protected and that planners were wrong to tell developers the line would never be built.

He said: “The tram route safeguards are intended to ensure, in line with council policy, that any network can be extended at some time in the future, if circumstances change.

“They are in place precisely to protect the route to allow this to happen, so it’s strange that the planning report would admit that these housing proposals conflict with that policy and then unilaterally declare that the network will not now be taken forward and ignore it completely.”

It is understood that long-abandoned plans for a southern tram line to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary are also now back on the table.

If plans progress, the Capital may finally boast the full 14-mile tram network it was promised in 2001.