Ambitious plans for the greenbelt in the west of Edinburgh include a new village with 3,600 homes if Edinburgh City Council releases the land for housing in its next vision for the future of development in the city.
Swathes of land neighbouring Heriot Watt University would be transformed into “Riccarton Village” including a community hub, primary school, health centre and 80 hectares of green space – more than three times the size of the Meadows.
The development, being promoted on behalf of landowners by Wallace Land Investments, aims to help plug the shortfall in homes needed in the city.
Based on the recent Reporter’s Examination of SESplan2, Edinburgh needs to be building around 3,100-3,500 units every year – for Edinburgh that means that if Scottish Ministers approve the plan in full, nearly 50,000 new homes could be built over the next 12 years to avoid the current shortfall.
Wallace Land Investments owner Jason Wallace said of the 3,600 homes, 900 will be affordable housing.
He added: “Riccarton Village will realise the city’s economic and housing ambitions and deliver a breath of fresh air in terms of approach and realisation of a truly sustainable vision, based around public transport hubs which complements the existing community and will be within an exemplary parkland setting.
“Our proposals build on Riccarton’s existing infrastructure and transport links, education and research jobs and the area’s ongoing investment linked to the City Deal, while adding value through providing improved services and facilities to existing local communities.
“It will provide the local population and students with a bustling village centre right on their doorstep, with a square and parkland providing the perfect setting for community events – markets, concerts, pop-ups and other outdoor activities.”
The proposal also promises delivery of an upgraded Curriehill Station to a transport “hub” including new bus routes linking Heriot-Watt, an enhanced park and ride, cycle station and electric vehicle charging points.
But Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western Alex Cole-Hamilton said he remains concerned about the impact of the “proliferation” of housing in west Edinburgh that shows “no signs of abating”.
“Everyone knows Edinburgh needs new houses but developers and planners are consistently looking to greenbelt land to answer that need.
“Although there are 3,600 houses planned, is that enough to sustain an entire new medical practice?
“There is massive congestion on western routes into the city. Anyone who has sat at Newbridge roundabout will know how choked it already is with potentially 6,000 new cars expected on the road.
“Developers continually pay lip service to these problems.
“It is hammer blow to existing communities who are relying on overstretched services. Once again this is a speculative proposal designed to bounce councillors into surrendering more greenbelt land into the Local Development Plan process.”
The land is currently allocated as greenbelt land in the city council’s Local Development Plan, adopted in November 2016, but the council are under growing pressure to meet housing targets.
And Wallace Land Investments said that if Riccarton Village was allocated in the forthcoming plan in 2021 construction could begin immediately due to “lack of constraints” and the availability of existing infrastructure – delivering 900 homes by 2026 and a further 180 per year thereafter.
Mr Wallace said there were also significant economic benefits to the proposal: “Independent research demonstrates Riccarton Village will deliver more than £1 billion of construction investment over 20 years through the provision of thousands of new homes including a new primary school plus contributing towards Currie High School redevelopment. It is proposed that 1,400 jobs will be supported by the completed development, 750 of those being located in west Edinburgh.”
A spokesperson for Heriot-Watt University, added: “We will carry out a thorough review of what has been proposed however, as a university, we welcome economic generation that benefits the wider community around our Edinburgh campus and remain fully engaged in Edinburgh City Council’s planning process.”