Last week, in a move criticised for undermining local democracy, Housing Minister Alex Neil decided to call in a number of housing development applications in Edinburgh. He will now decide whether they should go ahead.
Included is a controversial proposal to build 670 houses on the Cammo green belt. A key consideration in making his decision will be whether proposals meet Scottish Planning Policy sustainable development requirements. On this basis alone he should say no.
The Cammo application fails the sustainability test on a number of fronts. In particular, there has been no adequate analysis of transport and environmental impacts and social implications, principally around health services and education, are unaddressed.
Anyone who uses Maybury Road knows that there is no way that it and the Barnton junction are capable of coping with the additional traffic generated by these houses. This is especially true when you take into account the range of other proposals for building under consideration. If passed, developments could stretch all along the Maybury Road.
Mr Neil should take an overview when considering the Cammo application. If he looks at the impact of all of these proposals as a whole, he would see a road infrastructure that would become seriously gridlocked. How is this sustainable? We worry about the ability of people to do their daily travel but are also aware that, as the Maybury Road is a vital link for emergency vehicles, increased volumes of traffic could introduce significant risk to the response times for these services.
The proposals do not, in addition, give real consideration to health and educational impacts. Local health facilities and schools are already at capacity yet the proposal indicates that development could commence immediately.
There is no doubt that more houses are needed in Edinburgh but more and better thinking is needed around where these should go. The government’s required 2000 houses in west Edinburgh could be met from brownfield, windfall and other allocations but no real analysis of this has been undertaken by the council. The proposed Calyx development at Gogar could largely provide the housing required until 2024, but the council doesn’t seem to want to consider that. Why not?
Mr Neil should reject the Cammo appeal on the basis of sustainability if nothing else. What is then needed is a full and detailed assessment and genuine consultation. So far in this process this has been sadly lacking. Community feedback must be acted on and sustainability delivered.
Gary Bennett is chair of the Cammo Residents Association