West Edinburgh expansion step closer to reality

An artist's impression of the plans
An artist's impression of the plans
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Plans to turn fields and scrubland into a new district filled with office space, shopping streets and more than 2000 homes have taken a major step forward.

Developers have submitted blueprints for an International Business Gateway next to Edinburgh Airport, stretching from the RBS headquarters at Gogarburn to the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston, that will become an “extension to the city of Edinburgh”.

First suggested in 2011, the business-friendly zone has been valued at £310 million, with the potential to pump £4.4 billion into the Scottish economy and create 3600 jobs.

A new tram stop is set to be built as part of the development, which aims to create a 24/7 neighbourhood with a thriving community life long after office workers head home.

Experts insist improvements to the city’s transport connections were crucial to the project making progress, with the launch of the tram line and the continued growth of the airport providing the right conditions to launch the development.

New artist’s impressions released by developers reveal how the land – currently empty fields around Gogarburn – could one day be home to gleaming, modern office blocks and apartments.

In another sign of the project’s growing momentum, marketing materials backed by the council are being targeted at international investors, hailing the Gateway as having “unparalleled transportation links”.

In the latest edition of Invest Edinburgh, the promotional magazine produced by the council’s marketing agency and aimed at global investors, the project is described by city economic development leader Frank Ross as one of the 
Capital’s “prime investment opportunities”.

If an initial request for planning approval is accepted, full details will be submitted in the first half of this year.

The scheme is being proposed by a partnership of four different companies, including New Ingliston Limited, the firm that originally purchased the majority of the site in 1988 with the aim of developing the area.

A spokesman for New Ingliston said: “This is an exceptionally important and strategic development for Edinburgh.

“The provision of the tram makes for a unique place of the highest quality that is truly linked in to Edinburgh and will function as a 24/7 extension to the city.

“The balance of business, residential and leisure accommodation will undoubtedly create a community of merit.”

Roughly 26 acres, or just over a tenth of the total site, is held by Murray Estates, one of the firms in multi-millionaire Sir David Murray’s business empire.

A separate plan drawn up by Sir David to create a “garden district” on the western fringe of Edinburgh was rejected by planners and was not included in the blueprints.

West Edinburgh is set for a wave of development over the next few years, with swathes of land being earmarked for houses under the controversial second Local Development Plan. Residents have protested over the new planning blueprint amid fears that already clogged roads could grind to a halt thanks to the increased number of cars, particularly at Cammo and Maybury, which are set to bear the brunt of development.

Local MSP Colin Keir welcomed the potential for the International Business Gateway to bring investment and employment to the area, but said his concerns about increased traffic remained.

He said: “If it’s a development that’s going to create more jobs and economic development in the city, then that’s a good move. What I’d really like to hear from the council is what they are going to do to mitigate traffic problems. If the planners and the economic development department are not talking to each other, then the west side of the city will go into gridlock.”

Mr Keir added: “I will be objecting to that until the point where there are bricks being put into the ground.”

Edinburgh Napier University business commentator Graham Birse said connectivity both into the city centre thanks to tram line, and overseas with the growing number of international flights from Edinburgh Airport, had combined to make the project an attractive prospect.

He said: “The tram clearly is perhaps now beginning to come into its own in terms of its economic impact – something that was identified very early on – but during the prolonged period of time it took to construct, perhaps has not been as well recognised as it should be.

“What we’ve seen at Edinburgh Airport in the last few years is phenomenal growth, both in passenger numbers and the frequency and diversity of services to international destinations. That opportunity can only be developed further if you have an offer: infrastructure and facilities put in front of those organisations that might have an interest in locating here.”

Mr Birse added that the Gateway would help attract international firms to open offices in the Capital because of the concentration of 
high-quality accommodation in a single area.

He said: “By concentrating it in a cluster, you will achieve higher outcomes, provide greater support and enable partner institutions internationally both to be comfortably accommodated in your city, but also to work alongside one another in that campus environment.

“Although the emotional draw to Edinburgh is quite strong, in terms of our international festivals and cultural offering, that needs to be supported by infrastructure and links, as well as facilities that are custom-built for a modern enterprise. Look at other airports – Amsterdam Schipol, Paris Charles de Gaulle – they are bigger than we are, but on a smaller scale there is no reason why we 
can’t.”

Concert venue removed from latest drawings

Developers behind plans to create an International Business Gateway hope that it will become a vibrant new district of the Capital, but one potential attraction that would have drawn crowds from the city centre doesn’t appear – a concert venue.

Council leaders, event promoters and music fans have long campaigned for a purpose-built development to fill the gap in the city’s cultural scene.

The site was considered for the construction of a live music venue to rival Glasgow’s Hydro Arena, but following a study last year, the location was not deemed to be financially viable.

Two venue management companies drew up blueprints for 7000 to 12,000-capacity venues as part of the process.

Earlier artist’s impressions showed the concert venue at the centre of the International Business Gateway, with a prime position next to the tram line.

The building has been removed from the latest drawings.

During the height of Hearts’ financial drama, it was even suggested that an outdoor arena could double as a new home for the Gorgie club if they were forced to leave Tynecastle.

Following the collapse of the music venue plan, the city council’s culture convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, said companies were still examining the case for sites elsewhere.

Great transport links

THE 240-acre International Business Gateway site is bordered to the north by Edinburgh Airport, to the west by the Royal Highland Showground, to the south by the A8 and the RBS HQ, and to the east by the Gogar tram depot.

Currently occupied by fields and the Ingliston park and ride, the site could soon be home to 5750 residents in more than 2000 properties, as well as hosting 16,000 office workers during the week.

Locals will enjoy excellent transport links, with three tram stops within the boundaries and Edinburgh Airport on its doorstep.Developers say the £310 million project could generate £4.4 billion for the Scottish economy.