Amid Edinburgh's student-flat building boom, is development in the city really under control? – Susan Rae

The draft City Plan 2030 this week is one of the big set-piece moments for Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Developers want to bulldoze the World of Football pitches behind the Corn Exchange to make way for build-to-rent homes and student accommodation

Once it is approved, it will set the rules for development of all kinds for the next decade; a decade in which the city must meet its commitment to be a zero-carbon city.

There’s a lot in the draft plan I like. Its stated aim is to tackle the twin blights of climate change and poverty. It ups the game on affordable housing – and, for me, that is housing that people on low incomes can actually afford. It says no to development in the greenbelt.

There’s work still to do, of course: allowing for expansion of Edinburgh Airport makes zero sense. A joined-up network of routes for safe walking, wheeling and cycling needs to be there. The city needs an immediate rethink on the rush towards speculatively built, high-rent student housing.

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But it’s definitely progress. The trouble is that it’s such a dense document. Most people will find it hard to get to grips with such a big picture and, quite understandably, will see planning as it relates to individual developments in their area.

I know from my own tussles with Drum Developments in Leith Walk how charged and challenging that can be.

That is why current proposals like those for the Corn Exchange at Chesser matter so much. If much-loved football and bowling facilities are bulldozed for yet more student housing and high-price private renting, it will be hard for people to feel confident that development is under control, City Plan or not.

Susan Rae is a Scottish Green councillor for Leith Walk

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