Edinburgh's 2030 planning blueprint 'will drive up house prices' claims Tory councillor

An ambitious blueprint which aims to restrict Edinburgh’s future housing development to brownfield sites rather than the greenbelt will be “blown out of the water” once it is referred to the Scottish Government, a Tory councillor has predicted.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 4:55 am

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The Capital’s planning committee approved the draft City Plan 2030 which planning convener Neil Gardiner hailed as “a complete change of direction”.

But Tory Cameron Rose claimed it would drive up house prices and run into difficulties when government planning reporters had to scrutinise it.

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Map showing potential sites for housing development

The plan claims there is more than enough brownfield land in the city to meet the Capital’s housing needs and proposes no new greenbelt sites should be released over the next decade.

Councillor Gardiner has said climate change means it no longer works to keep building out and instead the council wants to encourage mixed-use sites which can benefit from existing infrastructure.

And he told the planning committee: “This plan is not some aspiration that won’t deliver, it's a really deliverable plan of how this city can change.

"We are in a climate emergency and we need to act now. We need to take this plan and make it happen as soon as possible.”

But councillor Rose said Edinburgh had a housing crisis and growing population. “If we wanted to drive up the cost of housing in Edinburgh even further I think this is the plan to do it,” he said.

He said out of 91 brownfield sites earmarked in the plan only nine were currently vacant and others were unlikely to be available. The Astley Ainslie hospital site, pencilled in for 500 homes, was due to be sold in the mid-2020s but NHS Lothian had announced it was now “in abeyance”. And some of the owners at Seafield, where a large area is proposed as development land, had said it was not for sale.

Councillor Rose said: “Here's my predictions – this plan will be blown out of the water at the examination stage and if it goes ahead it will force up the price of housing throughout the market, which will particularly affect affordable housing and rental housing.”

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The Tories called for a delay until the government published its new National Planning Framework, expected shortly, so the City Plan could be aligned with it.

Green planning spokesman Chas Booth said he was delighted there was no new allocation of greenbelt land in the plan and welcomed its emphasis on 20-minute neighbourhoods and net-zero new buildings.

But he added there was still a lot in it which was not compatible with the council’s climate objectives, including active travel proposals which still amounted to “fragments not a network”.

The Scottish Land Commission welcomed the City Plan as signalling a commitment to tackle derelict sites and make better use of land.

Chief executive Hamish Trench said: “The focus on reusing brownfield sites along public transport links is a positive step not just for ensuring houses are being built where people need them but also in helping to tackle climate change.

“Shifting the delivery of new housing and communities from greenfield sites to the re-use of brownfield sites will be a challenge. To make this vital change it will require support from the public sector to enable and shape development to be delivered by private sector partners."

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