Edinburgh's shape is changing: Emerging business district at Haymarket is exactly what city needs – John McLellan

New developments are expanding Edinburgh westwards towards the airportNew developments are expanding Edinburgh westwards towards the airport
New developments are expanding Edinburgh westwards towards the airport
There is no shortage of reasons to criticise Edinburgh Council, but granting permission for a new hotel and office block at Haymarket Yards isn’t one of them.

The planning sub-committee is coming under fire for the usual reason that the site is not being used for affordable housing, which it probably would be if it was in council ownership. But it’s owned by Aviva Investors which leased it five years ago to the Royal London insurance firm, so the redevelopment of the existing Elgin House offices, formerly home to revenue and customs staff now working in Queen Elizabeth House, is a relatively straightforward investment decision.

The planning committee has no power to order the owner to do something it doesn’t want to do, and refusing permission would just have resulted in a successful appeal. Nor would there be any justification for a compulsory purchase order when the council is struggling to build enough homes on the land it does control.

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The emerging business district around Haymarket station has been a long time coming, and providing high-quality office space and accommodation near a main railway station and tram stop is exactly the kind of development the city needs to keep the economy growing without putting more pressure on already creaking infrastructure.

From Haymarket, through Edinburgh Park and out to the development at the airport and near the Edinburgh Gateway station, the city’s shape is changing, and, as former council leader Donald Anderson pointed out yesterday, successful commercial developments are hard won. The alternative is stagnation.

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