Council accused of putting 6,000 Edinburgh 'digital quarter' jobs at risk amid planning wrangle
The developers of a proposed Edinburgh ‘digital quarter’ have accused the city council of risking 6,000 jobs by 'sticking with outdated planning policy'.
Crosswind Developments wants to transform a 65-acre brownfield site near Edinburgh Airport into ‘Elements Edinburgh’ – encompassing 700,000 square feet of office space, 2,400 homes, hotels, retail units, and leisure facilities.
Previous analysis on the potential economic impact of the development showed that over 6,000 jobs – including 4,800 high-value technology jobs – could be provided on the site.
The developers have appealed to the Scottish government’s planning and environmental appeals department (DPEA), after council planners failed to make a decision on time.
Tthe council is set to fight the appeal, claiming the development is not included in its local development plan, and described the plans as ‘premature and sketchy’.
At a meeting of the council’s development management committee, councillors voted to fight the developer’s appeal, after saying the local authority would have rejected the planning application anyway.
Convener of the committee, and SNP councillor for Pentland Hills, Neil Gardiner, said: “I support the council’s decision on this - the Crosswind site has been identified as a potential site in the plan, but I feel that the council hasn’t made that decision yet and it’s part of the democratic position that on such a major development that should be a local development plan decision.
“This is premature in seeking to determine the application in the way the developers are and they should really be waiting for the major decision the city of Edinburgh’s will be making for the next ten years - it overrides the democratic process, it overrides the principles of planning and appeal it in the way the developer is doing.
“Officers will continue to work with the developers to get the best result for the city of Edinburgh but that includes considering this site in the context of other sites.”
He added: “This is a premature and sketchy plan that has been brought forward and I’d like the committee to endorse the report and that be the settled will of the council.”
In response, John Watson, chief executive of Crosswind Developments, said: “It was clear that our fears that the application for Elements Edinburgh had not been properly scrutinised were well founded.
“The current city development plan is well out of date. We were told to wait for the new one which is already well overdue and won’t be agreed until at least August – one year after we submitted our application.
“This decision signals that the city places more emphasis on sticking with an out of date policy rather than working to bring forward a sustainable investment of national importance creating thousands of jobs and much needed homes while bringing a derelict site back to life.
“This will resonate with other developers and send a message internationally.
“Crosswind Developments had no option but to appeal because officials failed to supply us with a processing agreement in time or schedule the application for a hearing within the statutory timeline.
“It was frustrating that this was not explained properly today.. we look forward to proper scrutiny with a complete and balanced assessment during the appeal process and ultimately from the Scottish government.”