Edinburgh must expand meet the desperate need for new homes - Robin Holder

Want to buy a new home in Edinburgh but can’t afford it? The new Edinburgh City Plan 2030 could have shown how the desperate shortage of affordable homes would be met, but instead it has sold house-hunters short.

By Robin Holder
Monday, 8th November 2021, 7:00 am

One of the City Plan’s main purposes was to provide badly-needed affordable homes, but the proposed target is only about half of the identified need.

That’s the bad news. The good news is you can do something about it by objecting.

For home-seekers it is worrying and surprising that rather than prioritising supply the council has instead focused on restricting Edinburgh’s growth, which sounds like it is more designed to win votes from people who already own a home and would rather not have more new houses next to theirs.

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Of course those views are important, and the council may consider that to be the priority, but it will not help those looking for an affordable home close to their work, friends or family. Unfortunately, those many thousands of people don’t really have the information or the platform from which to mount the kind of co-ordinated opposition that politicians take notice of.

The City Plan avoids the simple truth that there is absolutely no prospect of meeting current and future housing needs without some expansion of the city.

The attempted focus on the redevelopment of brownfield land is to be applauded, but unfortunately the contribution this can make is vastly over-estimated. Nearly 95 per cent of the brownfield land which is proposed for housing is currently occupied by other uses, including productive businesses employing hundreds of people, but we are not aware of the council contacting them to ask if they want to relocate.

Rather, the council suggests they could use compulsory purchase orders, which would not only be prohibitively expensive, but the resulting legal battles could last many years. Moreover, there doesn’t appear to be any clear plan for relocating these businesses; maybe on greenfield land on the edge of the City or away from Edinburgh completely?

Even if some brownfield sites are made available for new homes, the City Plan proposal needs very high densities, which will mean flats and only small numbers of family homes with private gardens. That might increase the number of homes on each site, but won’t meet the needs of young families and many others.

I suspect the vast majority of people who can’t afford a decent home at an affordable price in Edinburgh are not even aware of City Plan 2030, or that they can object to the direction the council has chosen.

If you’re in that category, this is likely to be your last chance to make your views known so it’s vital you let the Council know what you think. The comment deadline is 19th December and the address is [email protected]. You need to make it clear why you are objecting, otherwise it may not be taken fully into account by the council or the independent inquiry into the plan scheduled for next year.

If you have any questions for me then please email me at [email protected]

Robin Holder is Managing Director of Holder Planning