Edinburgh Council 'considering building housing on more greenbelt' amid land concerns

Council bosses are considering opening up greenbelt land for housing - after officials warned that a lack of land in the city was a big risk to an ambition to build 20,000 affordable homes.

A proposed greenbelt extension to a housing development in Broomhills, Picture: Google
A proposed greenbelt extension to a housing development in Broomhills, Picture: Google

The city council has admitted it is considering opening up greenbelt to build housing on after Conservatives raised questions about Edinburgh having enough free land for the required house-building.

Edinburgh City Council’s strategic housing investment plan (SHIP) points out that “one of the key risks to the delivery of 20,000 affordable is failure to secure suitable land for development”.

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Planning officials are set to bring forward its “choices” consultation document next month, which will include options for allocating certain types of land for housing as part of the next local development plan – named the city plan 2030.

The draft city plan is set to be published in autumn 2020 and expected to be put into action by February 2022 after being examined by Scottish Government ministers.

But Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, quizzed officials over whether there is enough land in Edinburgh to provide the level of housing needed.

He said: “Is it fair to say that if we are to meet the affordable housing target and house-builders are still to be allowed land to do what they want to do to provide for the market, that we need a lot more land?”

The council’s executive director of place, Paul Lawrence, told the council’s housing, homelessness and fair work committee, that land supply will have to be considered, including the possibility of building on greenfield areas across the Capital.

He said: “There are clearly a number of very obvious choices to be made.

“For example, existing densities are one lens through which this could be looked at, intensification of current brownfield uses can be looked at, greenfield and green belt release can be looked at – all of these matters will be set out in the choices document.

“There are a range of choices to be made. Exactly how we are going to do that is a matter that will move forward in the process outlined.”

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Cllr Scott Arthur said: “Last year we were told that extending the tramline to Newhaven would take pressure off our greenbelt, now the council appears to be back-peddling on that.

"I have no idea how long I'm going to be a councillor for, but I intend to leave the greenbelt in my ward as I found it - a haven for wildlife and biodiversity. Any city that is seriously concerned about climate change should not be building on the greenbelt when brownfield sites are clearly available. Mr Lawrence needs to think again."

Cllr Whyte has called for more openness from the council about its plans and believes any overhaul will first need public support.

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He said: “If you are going to build all these houses over and above what the land supply says, then you need to take the public with you and provide the infrastructure.

“I’m not seeing anything that allows us to do that yet. We’re not persuading anyone. In m ward and in the outer parts of the city, people are very much against expansion at the moment because they say there’s no infrastructure and it simply adds to the traffic and congestion. We’re going to have to persuade people if we are going to take things forward.”

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