£1bn ‘Garden District’ homes plan under threat

The new plans recommend Sir David Murray's 'Garden District' be shelved and building to concentrate elsewhere. Picture: PA
The new plans recommend Sir David Murray's 'Garden District' be shelved and building to concentrate elsewhere. Picture: PA
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THOUSANDS of extra homes are set to swell the suburbs of Edinburgh under a controversial blueprint to ensure there is sufficient housing to cope with the city’s growing population over the next two decades.

Sir David Murray’s £1 billion “Garden District” plan to build 3500 homes in the green belt west of the Capital which would ease the pressure on building within the city boundaries has been overlooked by city planners. They are urging councillors to preserve all of Sir David’s potential development land as green space and instead clear the way for a series of major developments within communities across the city.

The blueprint has also sparked controversy by insisting that part of Leith Docks is earmarked for almost 1300 dwellings despite owner Forth Ports making clear it needs the land for industry.

The latest version of the Local Development Plan was due to be published today and will be debated by councillors next week.

A row within Edinburgh’s ruling Labour-SNP coalition housing allocations means there is not yet an agreed view from the politicians running the city on whether to approve the blueprint outlined by officials.

The housing roadmap includes plans for around 1500 new homes in South Queensferry, between the current edge of the town and the road to the new Queensferry 

Controversial proposals for 600 homes at Cammo remain part of the latest plan and the number of houses earmarked for nearby Maybury would increase by 650 to 1850.

There would also be around 350 new homes included in the International Business Gateway near the airport.

The proposed number of houses at Curriemuirend would also be increased from 100 to 165 while another 300 homes would be added to sites in Currie and Balerno: 30 at Riccarton Mains Road, 60 at Curriehill Road – next to the railway station – and 210 at Newmills.

In the south-east of the city, there would be 1100 new homes at Brunstane in the large area of land between Newhailes House and Brunstane House.

And 510 homes are earmarked for the Broomhills area.

Keith Giblett, chair of Queensferry and District Community Council, said residents would not welcome the extra development.

He said: “The present infrastructure of the town will not support a further 1500 homes.

“We realise that is a natural piece of land for development, but all the schools are stretched, health services are stretched and by 2016-17 we could have nearly another 1000 homes from other proposals already being considered. It’s not a happy prospect.”

Cammo Residents Association has long campaigned against additional homes, warning it would spark traffic chaos on surrounding roads.

Chairman Gary Bennett said: “New housing will produce gridlock at the Barnton junction, marooning residents, increasing air pollution and making our local roads more dangerous.

“Our schools are full and we will fight any school boundary changes proposed as a result of new houses built on the Cammo fields.”

And in Balerno, Ken Shade, the community council’s planning convener, said the vacant land now designated for new homes at Newmills was vital to preserving the distinct villages of Currie and Balerno.

“At the moment we are quite fortunate in that we are completely surrounded by our own green belt and we want to maintain that,” he said.

The Scottish Government demands the council identifies sites for an extra 24,530 homes between 2009 and 2019, and a further 7931 between 2019 and 2024 – a total of 32,461.

Some of the required number of homes are being found from recalculating previous assumptions.

For example, fewer houses are now expected to be demolished, so there will be no need to build so many replacements.

And there is an increase in the number of homes expected from “windfall” housing developments – small-scale projects which go on outwith the main house-building programmes on land dotted around the city.

There has also been a rise in the number of houses expected to be built in new brownfield locations.

But the proposed “Garden District”, close to Edinburgh Park, which would include a 60-acre “Eden of the North” garden complex alongside housing close to Heriot-Watt University and businesses is being rejected by officials.

It is understood planners had concerns about the risk of flooding from the Gogar Burn and believed transport links were insufficient to support the additional traffic. The developers say all 3500 proposed homes would be within five minutes of a bus stop and half would be a short walk from the tram.

Murray Estates managing director Jestyn Davies said: “Edinburgh faces some difficult choices, and we believe that our proposals help give the city the new housing it so badly needs without any undue impact on existing suburban communities in the city.”

But City Chambers insiders said the political split over the plans could end in deadlock.

One source said: “Normally there would have been an agreed line from the administration, but that is looking increasingly unlikely and for the first time there may be an SNP motion and a Labour motion going to the committee.”

Building homes on waterfront ‘risks driving away investment’

FORTH Ports has warned that plans to designate waterfront land at Leith for new homes risks driving away investment and jobs.

Despite once envisaging a major housing and commercial district at Ocean Terminal, the firm now says it will continue as a port with associated industrial activity.

The council’s Local Development Plan, however, still earmarks Britannia Quay for up to 1296 new homes.

Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said it could block future planning applications from inward investors eager to bring jobs to Leith.

In a letter to council chief executive Sue Bruce, Mr Hammond said: “It is both crucial and appropriate for Britannia Quay to be identified for industrial and port related uses in the forthcoming plan.”

He claimed one existing port user had already dropped plans to relocate to a better site at Britannia Quay and warned that if the firm involved moved away altogether, 11 jobs would be lost. “Forth Ports is committed to the continued operation of the Port of Leith as an industrial port and this requires the utilisation of all operational land,” he added.

But if the area was allocated for housing, he warned, any plan for port or industrial use could legitimately be refused because it contravened the Local Plan.

Mr Hammond said Britannia Quay was vital as one of only two places within the port which had a deep water berth.

It is used to moor over 30 cruise liners a year as well as North Sea oil and gas vessels.

Grain is also unloaded there to feed the adjacent ADM Mill.

The Forth Ports chief had told the council a year ago that Britannia Quay would continue in use as a port.

He added: “There is no room for ambiguity in our position and the council is wrong to persist with the view that the land will become available for residential use at some time in the future.”


By Robin Holder Planning consultant

THE proposed Local Development Plan is one of the most important documents of its kind produced for the city, particularly in terms of responding to Edinburgh’s housing crisis.

There is currently a shortfall of about 6000 homes, resulting from planning constraints on building over many years and delays in the planning process.

The time has come for key decisions to be taken by council leaders. In the past, there has been a reluctance by some elected members to be seen to be allocating land for housing development because of the Nimby – not in my backyard – response. The need for more housing has, therefore, often been ignored because of perceived short-term political consequences.

It is so important that the housing sites which are chosen are in the right location, close to jobs, shops and good public transport. If designed properly, there is no reason why the development of greenfield sites

is necessarily a bad thing.

Rather than a short-term approach, it is important that the plan allocates enough housing land to meet medium and longer terms needs. This means thinking ahead, about what we want Edinburgh to look like in 50 or 100 years’ time, and creating the conservation areas of tomorrow.