City planning convenor who works just 2 days a week in council role under pressure to resign

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CITY planning convener Neil Gardiner is under pressure to stand down amid claims he does not devote enough time to the role.

Council sources say despite holding one of the most important jobs on the council he spends just two days a week on his planning and council responsibilities combined.

Neil Gardiner only spends 2 days in the city chambers

Neil Gardiner only spends 2 days in the city chambers

The qualified architect, elected as an SNP councillor for the first time last year, was handed the post – overseeing decisions on major developments across the Capital – in November last year following the resignation of scandal-hit colleague Lewis Ritchie.

But already SNP leaders at the City Chambers are understood to want to replace Cllr Gardiner, who also has a job working for the NHS.

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Senior Nationalist Gavin Barrie, ousted last week as the council’s housing and economy convener, was urged to put his name forward for the planning brief instead, but declined.

Pentland Hills result ''Neil Gardiner

Pentland Hills result ''Neil Gardiner

One insider said: “Neil is seen as a bit of a problem at planning.

“He has a job outside the council but he has taken on one of the most demanding convenerships. He only dedicates two days a week to being a councillor and planning convener. That’s driving people crazy.”

Another added: “He’s quite direct about it, telling people that’s as much time as he is prepared to give. Meetings have had to be rearranged to fit in with his schedule.”

When Cllr Gardiner, who represents Pentland Hills, became planning convener the council said he had 25 years’ experience in architecture, urban design and project management in the international construction industry, having worked in Edinburgh, London, Berlin, São Paulo and Sydney.

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But a senior council source said the SNP leadership now recognised there was a problem.

“They tried to oust him. But no-one wanted the job. Now the development community is raising concerns about a lack of political leadership.

“It’s a hugely important role for the city. With the St James project and so on, the city is starting to buzz with development and we need political leadership of planning.”

And a private sector source warned: “Being planning convener in the capital of Scotland is a powerful position.

“If you have someone who is very much a part-time convener that sends out a message to international investors and developers.

“Nor is it a healthy position to have a convener who doesn’t have the confidence of his colleagues.

“If you have a development you want to bring to Edinburgh he’s not up for talking about it. No developer would ask a convener to take a view on a proposal, but it’s important to be able to convey information to those making the decisions. If you can’t do that it’s not a good sign.

“If there’s a problem in planning it can be a drag on investment into the city.”

Cllr Gardiner said: “I do have a role outside the council, which is not unknown for a senior councillor. I am able to manage the demands of my role as planning convenor flexibly.”