Is it possible to avoid the Brexit chaos of the past week and no doubt weeks to come? Doubtful – there seems no respite from news feeds, press and bulletins.
I did have some diversion from the news last week when I tuned into local radio to escape the noise and heard that the makers of the board game Monopoly have just brought out a new version of the Edinburgh Edition. The original one, being 20 years old, was deemed not representative of the city today – no parliament building, no trams, no St Andrew Square and no St James development. How much our city has changed in the past 20 years!
How much will it change in the next 20 years? With a population growing at double the national average and projected to hit 750,000 by 2050, how do we accommodate the additional demand on a city centre that has limited scope for expansion and increased capacity?
Our World Heritage status means little can be done to impinge on the historic architecture and vistas that make Edinburgh one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe, which is a major contributor to our success – so where can we look for growth and capacity?
Granton and the Waterfront development could ultimately provide that harbour-side, sea view real estate that Edinburgh has never got quite right in the way other cities have, and provide much needed space for affordable housing and commercial accommodation. But the big opportunity is the West of Edinburgh Development. There hasn’t been as much interest and opportunity ‘out West’ since the Klondike Goldrush.
With Crosswinds Developments, the Edinburgh International Business Gateway and Parabola’s Edinburgh Park development, this will be one of the largest developments in Europe providing space for significant capacity building –and with Glasgow just 30 minutes away along the M8, perhaps the start of a Central Belt Region.
This will require collaboration by the many stakeholders which includes the University of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh Airport, City of Edinburgh Council and private sector developers. But with data driven innovation being the focus of the City Region Deal and ‘Data Capital of Europe’ the mantle to which we aspire, we need housing, quality commercial accommodation, together with place making and communities to attract investment from global companies who want to take advantage of the innovation and skills Edinburgh has to offer.
This is the century of the city and careful management of how our capital city grows and becomes the city of the future will depend on the innovation and thought we implement now.
Liz McAreavey is the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.