Marion Williams: Seeing red over erosion of green belt

Share this article
Have your say

There is growing concern that the Scottish Government’s drive for growth of Edinburgh will have a major detrimental impact on the green spaces in and around our capital city. Not only is the green belt under threat, so are precious green spaces.

The Cockburn Association is not against growth per se, cities need to be able to grow, but the continued erosion of Edinburgh’s green belt by development since its proposal in 1949 by Patrick Abercromby and Derek Plumstead in their Civic Survey and Plan for Edinburgh, is now at a level where soon there could be no belt left.

The inner margin of the green belt along the edges of settlements is most sensitive, because it provides the immediate countryside setting for communities, is accessible for informal, outdoor recreation and makes a major contribution to their quality of life.

In this sensitive, inner part of the green belt, more than 4000 acres have been lost over the past 50 years. More than 8000 acres of land have also suffered severe and detrimental visual impacts from development.

These losses, coupled with detrimental visual impacts, have significantly eroded the rural character of Edinburgh’s green belt. If the proposed greater degree of attrition were allowed over the next 50 years, it would severely jeopardise the green belt and effectiveness of its purposes.

Recent losses of green land to developers at Dreghorn, Burdiehouse, Edmonstone and Newcraighall are exacerbated by continued development pressures at Juniper Green, 
Currie, Balerno and Ratho. Particularly worrying are the “Garden District” plans of Sir David Murray which, if accepted, would change the size, shape and character of Currie and Ratho forever and leave an urban sprawl across the west of the city, effectively coalescing Currie through Hermiston Village to Ratho. The plans would breach the green belt and concrete over prime agricultural land.

Scottish Government figures predicting the need for such large numbers of additional houses do not take into account the recent economic downturn and are trend-based estimates that were already three per cent in error after only one year’s prediction some four years ago. The city council was expected to work with these figures, only to find in the next round of this increasingly opaque process that a reporter from the Scottish Government required the houses the council had originally proposed be built in 2024-34 had to be brought forward into the 2014-24 figures. As things stand, the Scottish Government’s demand for growth can only be fed by a massive incursion into prime green spaces in and around our city. 

The Cockburn Association (established 1875) is seriously concerned that the continued demands for growth have the potential to eradicate the green belt entirely from parts of the city.

We are not aware that the views of individual citizens of Edinburgh have been obtained and taken into account on the important issues, such as:

n How big should Edinburgh be? Should it be allowed to grow at such a rate, absorbing all the surrounding towns and villages into a huge conurbation?

n How important is the Edinburgh green belt?

n How can the green belt and 
associated prime agricultural land be protected?

• How can a better balance be achieved between the requirements of growth and those of landscape, environment and the quality of life of individuals and communities?

If you are concerned, get in touch with us.

Marion Williams is director of the Cockburn Association,