Edinburgh to build 9 new schools

School building plans are likely to be broadly welcomed
School building plans are likely to be broadly welcomed
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SCHOOLS and roads are set for an investment boost of almost £300 million to ensure the Capital can cope with plans for around 14,400 new homes over the next ten years.

As many as nine schools – including a replacement for Castlebrae Community High – could be built across the city, with major sums also set to be ploughed into roundabouts, footpaths and streets.

The improvements would support the delivery of the proposed local development plan (LDP), which will see more than 9200 flats and houses erected throughout the city.

It is predicted a further 5200 homes will be built at “unprogrammed” or “windfall” locations – such as former industrial sites – which become available unexpectedly.

An additional junction on the A8, close to the Royal Highland Centre, a flyover at Sherrifhall, new cycle links in the south of the city and further improvements to bus stops, are all among key developments which could be taken forward.

Fresh analysis has revealed that the total cost of improvements required to support the planned scale of housing development is around £296m.

If funded entirely through borrowing, the investment would leave the city facing annual loan charges of around £12.5m.

However, council bosses have indicated a significant proportion of the estimated construction cost could be covered by leveraging in contributions from developers.

They have also suggested a proposed £1 billion “city deal” – which includes the three Lothian authorities, as well as the Scottish Borders and Fife – could help fund some services required for residents living in new developments.

However, it has emerged that schools and other buildings defined as “social infrastructure” would not be financed through a successful bid for city region cash.

Council chiefs said the plan had been put together in response to the city’s rapid growth.

Projections published last year showed Edinburgh’s population would shoot up by more than 28 per cent from the 2012 figure of 482,640 to 618,978 in 2037.

Councillor Ian Perry, the Capital’s planning leader, said: “We have to prepare an action programme. That means we have to assess what the infrastructural costs will amount to when we implement the local development plan.

“We’re a growing city and that’s why we need the 14,000 or so houses that we’ve got to produce.

“£296m will pay for all of the infrastructure that we require to build all these houses. It’s a wow figure.”

The latest blueprints show there are plans for up to eight new primary schools at Leith waterfront, Granton waterfront, Maybury, Gilmerton, Broomhill, Brunstane, Greendykes and Builyeon Road.

Proposals have also been unveiled which could see Castlebrae Community High extended or replaced completely on a new site at Niddrie Mains Road in south-east Edinburgh.

In addition, the plans support housing development on two sites at Maybury and Cammo, despite a campaign by locals who are fighting to preserve the green belt status of Cammo Fields.

It has emerged that city bosses are seeking to strike a deal with the Scottish Government which would see ministers underwrite borrowing.

This would allow certain projects to access bank or private finance which could then be used to support infrastructure investment.

The option of a loan fund to provide “initial seed funding” for projects has also been put forward in a bid to minimise the impact of future development on city budgets. However, despite its scale, the current local development plan will provide fewer than a third of the 48,000 homes which the council’s own analysis has indicated will be required to cope with surging population growth over the next decade.

City leaders have also admitted the plans will create a huge budgetary challenge, although they stressed that it would be some years before any significant financial pressure is felt.

“[The £296m] is quite a substantial figure,” said Cllr Perry. We can ask for developer contributions but that’s not a straightforward process. Every site is different and the cost of developing each site is different.

“On the basis of that, we would be left with a £152m cost for the council for the infrastructure.

“That’s a big figure – roughly half of the overall cost.

“But the key figure for us on a planning basis is that it will cost us £12m a year on the revenue budget to borrow that amount of money over 20 years. That’s unless there is another way of paying for the infrastructure cost.”

The proposed LDP was submitted to the Scottish Government’s Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals for examination in June this year.Cllr Perry said the latest infrastructure improvement blueprint was a “live” document and would be subject to annual review to ensure it meets the needs of the city.

And he stressed that actual delivery of the plan was still a long way off and subject to negotiation with developers and ministers.

“The LDP process is not completed,” he added.

“It will be completed next year. Even with a fair wind, it won’t kick in immediately. It will kick in at some point in the future.”