Go west for a vision of Edinburgh's bright future - Liz McAreavey

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At an event hosted by the Edinburgh Chamber this week, I was struck by a bright focus that shone on the potential for Edinburgh’s western edge to play a central role in creating an exciting future for the Capital. From Edinburgh Park to the city's International Airport, some of the major developers driving exciting plans to create new, sustainable neighbourhoods outlined their vision.

It was inspiring to see the level of commitment to sustainable living, 20-minute neighbourhoods, greener transportation options, and mixed tenure and low-carbon housing. It's also worth remembering that as the wider city expands, as projected, our city centre benefits as well. Perhaps a glimpse of the future?

It was also fascinating to hear that developers such as Crosswinds Developments, Parabola, and Drum Property Group are fully committed to working together as well as with other partners such as the city council and the airport to ensure the success of this potential new city quarter.

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Each development, on its own, can have a significant impact. Consider the following statistics from Crosswinds for their project Elements Edinburgh, which is located on a 60-acre brownfield site near the airport. The project is expected to bring in:

Liz McAreavey, CEO of Edinburgh Chamber Of CommerceLiz McAreavey, CEO of Edinburgh Chamber Of Commerce
Liz McAreavey, CEO of Edinburgh Chamber Of Commerce

One million sq. ft. commercial space supporting 6,000+ jobs.Designated digital hub attracting global inward investment and generating GVA >£450m per annum with dedicated ‘market square’ to promote collaboration.2,500 homes. (1, 2 and 3-bedroom flats to support an intergenerational community)42 per cent of the site as green space connecting to existing and proposed green and blue networks.5.7 hectare new green urban park within 500m of all homes.9.4km of walking and cycling routes connecting to existing major travel nodes (air, train, tram, bus interchange) and wider active network.Central car-free community hub with local amenities supporting a 20-minute neighbourhood.Inclusive living: homes will not be identifiable by tenure or ownership, including social rent.

Not far away, Parabola is looking at a new phase at Edinburgh Park which will deliver an exemplary masterplan of mixed development creating a 15-minute neighbourhood, in which people can live, work and play in a low-carbon, sustainable community with innovative heating systems and active travel built in. A focus on the arts, but also with built-in sports and recreation facilities and good restaurants and bars. As Peter Millican, Founder of Parabola commented, successful communities do not necessarily follow a plan, but need a ‘sprinkling of magic’. That magic comes in the form of a bakery, Patina, and some of the best pastries to be found! It also means performance space, gathering places, sculptures and sport facilities that enable wellbeing and encourages attendance at the office.

Just two of the major examples of the ongoing planning and development work now well underway to help our city transform to meet the needs of a growing population that needs new ways of living and working post-pandemic.

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These developments will also create enormous opportunities for local businesses – by bringing new people, new infrastructure, and new investment. With people comes spending, and that commercial activity is what drives growth and prosperity.

With a priority on place-making it all fits perfectly with both City and Scottish priorities. Look to the West, to see a vision of city development to come.

Finally, we are rapidly heading towards one of the key dates in the city’s business calendar – the Edinburgh Chamber Business Awards, which attracts a glittering audience of 600 business, civic, and political influencers and decision-makers to help celebrate the innovation, commitment and success of our city’s business community.

This year we have seen over 150 entries (up 12 per cent from last year). Entries closed on the 27th of last month and shortlists have just been announced. It is hugely encouraging to see an increase in focus on the vital role businesses can play in delivering a more sustainable and socially just city. Some of the most popular categories were Responsible Business; Inspiring Partnership; Employer of the year; Service excellence; and Innovation.

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In addition, our international category has seen the highest number of entries in over four years despite difficult trading conditions and the post-pandemic impact of Brexit. We hope this is a positive sign of things to come. Good luck to all of our nominees!

Liz McAreavey, CEO of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce