Green belt scheme ‘will help create traffic chaos’

The land behind Edinburgh Airport in the council's plan and below, traffic jams at Maybury. Picture: Lesley Martin

The land behind Edinburgh Airport in the council's plan and below, traffic jams at Maybury. Picture: Lesley Martin

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PLANS to open up green belt land to meet Edinburgh’s housing shortage have been savaged, with city planners accused of not properly considering transport woes in the Capital’s outskirts.

A blueprint of the city’s future released last week identified new sites at Maybury and Cammo, east of Edinburgh airport, that would be reclassified to accommodate up to 2100 new homes to help meet the city’s growing population.

Council planners said the new green belt sites had been chosen because of their strong transport links and close proximity to the new tram line as part of the council’s 2015-2020 Local Development Plan [LDP].

But Edinburgh Western MSP Colin Keir said he was opposed to the potential housing developments, claiming the area’s congested roads were already past breaking point and could not cope with any further traffic.

He said Maybury and Barnton intersections were problem spots, adding: “Both of these junctions are already at bursting point. It would be absolutely terrible for those people who live in East Craigs, West Craigs and Cammo to have several thousand extra homes planted there simply without the supporting infrastructure.

“If you get a 31 bus from the terminus in East Craigs at eight o’clock in the morning, it can be half-past eight until you get through to Maybury. If we cannot sort out the problems between Barnton, Maybury and East Craigs for the people that live there, their lives are going to be made a misery.”

Mr Keir predicted the opening of the tram line would not fix congestion, with many ­people still needing to drive or catch a bus to reach the closest tram stop.

A major housing regeneration development on council-owned open space at Curriemuirend, Clovenstone, is also part of the LDP going before tomorrow’s planning committee meeting.

Colinton/Fairmilehead Councillor Jason Rust questioned the impact on an already busy Wester Hailes Road, saying: “I can only assume over 100 new houses will exacerbate the current traffic situation and have a major impact for my constituents in Colinton.

“Any problem on the bypass means traffic immediately filters through this route. There will also be pressures on local schools and medical practices. We need to keep these green sites and avoid coalescence of distinct communities. I hope this proposal is abandoned.”

Planning leader Councillor Ian Perry moved to ease fears, pointing out the LDP had identified potential traffic solutions.

A new pedestrian-cycle bridge linking Maybury to the Edinburgh Gateway tram stop, road improvements at the Maybury roundabout, Craigs Road and Barnton, and direct pedestrian links to improved bus services have all been proposed.

Cllr Perry said: “The discussion with developers would include how we improve the transport infrastructure. We’ll certainly ask developers for a contribution.”

Blair Melville, head of planning strategy for Homes for Scotland, took a different tack, arguing planners had not gone far enough in meeting the need for 26,000 homes across the city by 2024.

He said the council may be misleading the public over the extent of housing needed by publishing the LDP before the Scottish Government’s Strategic Development Plan for the region was completed.

Mr Melville said: “The council taxpayers of the city might well be asking in the near future why the council wasted time and money publishing a plan which had to be torn up and started again.”

Cllr Perry said the council were prepared to release more land, stressing: “We’re under pressure from house builders. We’re making an early announcement so that developers know what our thoughts are and where we’re going to release land, particularly green belt land.”

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “There’s a bigger question here - how large do we want Edinburgh to be and what are the implications of growth for quality of life in the city?”