Builders back in business

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More development is now taking place in the Capital than at any time since the economic downturn hit.

New figures published by the city council show that more planning applications were submitted in 2010/11 than any of the previous two years.

The 4429 planning applications lodged was 12 per cent higher than last year and was also the highest number of any year since 2007/08, in what is seen as a sign of the recovering confidence of homeowners and developers.

The data also shows that fewer than two in every 10 applications were rejected by planners, which business leaders welcomed as it will help “generate jobs”.

Applications submitted in the last year include major developments such as the new Primark store in Princes Street, plans for a new Sick Kids’ hospital at Little France, the redevelopment of the former Fountainbridge Brewery, the extension to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and the proposed new James Gillespie’s High School.

They also include much smaller applications for work like extensions and modifications to individual houses.

Councillor Jim Lowrie, the city’s planning leader, said: “The number of planning applications submitted is one indicator of a healthy economy. It shows that homeowners are looking with confidence to the future and their plans provide work for small businesses.

“But we also have developers and investors prepared to commit themselves to major projects in the city, which helps to create jobs and provide income.”

The main increase in applications came among householders, in a sign that they are again willing to spend money on their property, potentially in advance of trying to sell it.

During the year to April 2011, there were also 30 applications judged to be major developments, which are classed as more than 50 homes or above 10,000 metres squared of business space.

Glasgow City Council received only 76 per cent of the volume of applications that Edinburgh did during the year, although two Scottish authorities – Aberdeenshire and Highland – had more applications.

The city council also achieved a series of targets on dealing with applications quickly, with 79 per cent of all applications dealt with within two months, which was well above a target of 70 per cent.

Cllr Lowrie said: “Despite the increase in workload I’m also pleased that we have continued to process applications above both our own performance targets and the Scottish local authority average.”

Graham Birse, managing director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s absolutely vital that our recovery as an economy and as a city is supported by sustainable development.

“It is really encouraging that 84 per cent of our major applications in Edinburgh were approved in the year to March. We would like to see that number go even higher.

“Our capacity to generate jobs and prosperity in the city depends upon it.”

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