ON first glance the idea of giving away the city’s valuable assets on a “pay us when you can” basis sounds like a risky gamble.
The buy now, pay later culture has after all not been entirely successful in recent years.
But today’s new proposals from the city council may just be exactly the type of innovative thinking needed to really kick-start the development of the Capital, creating jobs, investment and much-needed new homes.
Sure there are inherent risks when dealing with private firms which may themselves be facing an uncertain future. The idea of allowing building to take place before you actually pocket the cash for the land would have seemed like a horrifying prospect a few years ago.
But we remain in difficult economic times and as business struggle to get loans from the banks, this idea makes a lot of sense.
The city council says that for every 200 extra homes built up to 310 jobs would be created. Each project would also pump around £17.5 million into the economy while clearly, with the interest already expressed by housing associations, it will go some way to tackling Edinburgh’s chronic shortage of quality, affordable homes.
The city council is no longer in the position where it is fighting off buyers for prime sites and the alternative is to leave these sites vacant until the recovery with the associated security costs which this would bring.
Far better to take the initiative and this sensible and practical approach seems like the right solution. Of course, we trust in our officials to work hard on the legal agreements to ensure the risk to taxpayers is minimised.
But with the promise of jobs, homes, and investment instead of eyesore gap sites, this is one gamble worth taking.
Trees are a bonus
The idea of planting enough new trees in Edinburgh to cover a quarter of the Meadows is enough to stop you in your tracks.
The Capital already has many beautiful parks and green spaces that are the envy of most other cities.
If this planting programme was connected to anything other than the trams, it would be greeted as a major breakthrough for the local environment. We should not let our feelings about the trams, whatever we think of the project, get in the way of seeing this for what it is, an investment in the future of the city.
Planting eight times as many trees as have been cut down is a big step in the right direction.