Edinburgh Council clowns little short of dishonest over housing plans – John McLellan

Shoppers dropping in at the Gyle are accustomed to the ease with which parking spaces can be found, and indeed there is so much capacity that there was room for a circus last month.
Edinburgh Council included sites that it couldn't guarantee were available for development to show how it would meet its housing targets (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)Edinburgh Council included sites that it couldn't guarantee were available for development to show how it would meet its housing targets (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
Edinburgh Council included sites that it couldn't guarantee were available for development to show how it would meet its housing targets (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

But if proposals contained in the new Edinburgh City Plan are approved, there will be no room for cars at all, because the whole site is earmarked for mixed-use development, mainly housing but with some business space. The council sold the centre to Marks & Spencer in 1997 for £122m, but three years ago the retail giant sold it on to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the lecturers’ pension fund, for £187m, although as an anchor tenant M&S retains an obvious interest in its future.

That future doesn’t include building houses on the car park, because M&S has raised an objection and the USS isn’t likely to upset a major occupant from which it receives substantial ground rent by agreeing to give up the land for housing unless the long-term income projections stack up. It’s the same issue at Seafield where the council wants the industrial estate developed for residential use, but owner Royal London Insurance is quite happy with its current revenues.

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There is room for compromise at the Gyle, but it’s still another headache for the council’s housing targets, with sites it couldn’t guarantee would be developed knowingly included to make its numbers look better. It is little short of irresponsible and dishonest, and it appears the Gyle car park isn’t the only place where there is room for clowns.

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