You might expect a barrage of protests over plans to build 1500 homes on the greenbelt on the edge of Edinburgh.
Concerns over the latest Garden District proposals are already being raised by the Greens and they won’t be alone in their opposition. But don’t hold your breath for protests of the kind that greeted much smaller recent housing plans at Craighouse, Cammo, Balerno, Newcraighall and elsewhere. Residents are highly unlikely to set up protest groups, raise petitions, lobby their MPs and wave placards outside the City Chambers over the latest plans.
That is partly of course because there are so few neighbours – unless you count the nearby Royal Bnk of Scotland offices, Edinburgh Park and Heriot-Watt University – to kick up a stink. But local circumstances mean that the plans will receive a warmer welcome than they otherwise would in the nearest residential areas.
The residents who have been forced to fight off plans for major development near their homes will see in this the chance of some respite. Building 1500 homes, along with the school, GP surgery, church, local shops, etc, needed to support them, won’t protect fields near their homes from development, but it will ease the pressure for building there.
There will be concerns too about the strain that any more homes in the west of the city will put on the already struggling road network. But, given official estimates that the Capital will need 48,000 new homes to meet demand over the next decade, where will they all go?
There is a growing acceptance that the tight constraints of a traditional greenbelt no longer work in cities like Edinburgh. Increasingly the result is that people are forced to move out of the city to find an affordable family home, only to jump in their car each day to drive back in to Edinburgh. That’s bad for traffic congestion, and, more importantly, bad for the environment.
There is much to be said for the idea of building close to important transport links, such as the new Borders Railway, the tram line and train stops like Edinburgh Park. Even better are new homes where people can walk or cycle to work at major centres of local employment. The Garden District plan of course ticks a lot of boxes on both those scores.
The city needs to consider where it wants to build – and what it wants to protect – in order to provide the extra homes we need. The fate of the Garden District plans will tell us a lot about those priorities.