Developer hits out at bid to thwart homes plan

The site at Edmonstone Estate near Little France is full of mine shafts. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The site at Edmonstone Estate near Little France is full of mine shafts. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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DEVELOPERS have blasted proposals to block the creation of 360 homes on a patch of unsafe green-belt land amid claims the city is missing a chance to plug the housing gap.

The land at Edmonstone Estate near Little France is riddled with more than 200 mine shafts and is sealed off because of safety fears.

Sheratan Ltd has said it is prepared to spend more than £10 million shoring it up and claims the homes will help meet a 6000 housing shortfall.

The plans, which include 25 per cent affordable housing, were rejected last month because the brownfield site is in a green-belt area.

Planning expert Robin Holder, representing Sheratan, said there was “a unique justification” for building on the 27 hectares of land and that there would be an appeal if proposals were blocked again.

He said: “This is an incredibly dangerous site which is inaccessible to the public, posing a major health and safety risk.

“Housing development on this land provides a win-win for the council, bringing it back into productive use as well as ensuring that the council is able to address the critical shortfall in Edinburgh’s housing land supply.

“Given its siting in a major economic growth area, next to the BioQuarter and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and with excellent transport links, this is an ideal location for housing.

“In addition, it had not one single objection to it – a unique situation for a green belt development in Edinburgh.

“With no prospect of this being brought back into productive use other than through enabling development we would urge councillors to give this site the green light.”

Council planners have reserved the area as a site for recreational parkland but Sheratan has branded this “completely unachievable” because of the undermining created by the mineshafts.

The company is now lodging plans to build an even higher and stronger fence to keep people out amid fears trespassers could be injured or even killed by falling down a mine shaft.

Labour’s Bill Cook, representing Liberton and Gilmerton, defended the Development Management Committee’s decision.

Acknowledging the housing shortage, Councillor Cook said: “It is their policy not to build on green-belt land, and it’s as basic as that. Officers have gone through this quite analytically, and they have to maintain a coherent policy and follow strict criteria.”

The plans were recommended for refusal by planning officers and turned down on July 30 on the deciding vote of the chairman but will go before full council later this month,

Joanna Mowat, who was in July’s planning meeting, was one of six councillors who voted in favour of the development.

She said: “This would contribute to meeting the housing shortage and would help get improvements to the land so I voted in favour of it.”