'I will have failed Edinburgh people if I can't lift them out of poverty' says city planning chief

Edinburgh City Council is set to launch a public consultation

Monday, 20th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 6:36 am
Around 80,000 people in the Capital live in poverty, with child poverty as high as 39 per cent in Gorgie (pictured) and Sighthill.

A planning chief has insisted that if a new development plan does not help lift his constituents out of poverty he will have "failed" them.

Edinburgh City Council is set to launch a public consultation on choices that could be included in the City Plan 2030. Included in the draft document are proposals to increase the level of affordable housing, potentially release green belt to accelerate house-building and set up a "short term let control area" to halt the rise of Airbnb properties in the Capital.

But the plan also aims to turn Edinburgh into a city where "everyone lives in a home which they can afford" and a place where "everyone shares in its economic success".

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It is thought that around 80,000 people in the Capital live in poverty - including more than 21,000 children who are living in families where an adult is in work.

In the Gorgie and Sighthill ward of the city, the child poverty level is as high as 39 per cent, while Leith and Forth wards both register 34 per cent. More than 30 per cent of children living in Portobello/Craigmillar, Leith Walk, the city centre and Gilmerton/Liberton wards are living in poverty.

The council's planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner, said: "There has been a lot of housing, particularly in the central area, to short term lets and there's a general affordability issue - particularly for the younger generation. We're looking to ways we can address that and it's our aim to bring forward a plan that would help alleviate that crisis.

"It's an important consideration that a lot of the children gowning up in Edinburgh, approximately 25 per cent, are in poverty. That's just not acceptable - we are one city and we need to address this issue and where we can do so through this plan, we will do. It's in nobody's interests that there's a group in the population that are disenfranchised.

"Wester Hailes is one of the most deprived areas in east central Scotland - that's completely unacceptable and it's got to change through this plan. I would feel that I would have failed if we don't do anything there."

The draft city plan choices document highlights that Edinburgh has "increasing levels of poverty and health inequalities in our communities" along with "rising housing costs, and in some areas, traffic congestion and poor air quality".

The paper highlights that the city needs more homes, "particularly affordable homes" and "we need to support a fairer society through significant investment in our schools, public transport system and healthcare facilities".

The council administration has committed to building 20,000 affordable homes and wants to deliver them "in the most efficient way, within mixed sustainable communities, whilst minimising green belt release".

Choices included in the public consultation will ask the public and industry if they back a pledge that affordable housing should not look different to he market-led housing on a site and that the units should meet high standards.

Vice planning convener, Cllr Maureen Child, said: "The gap between the rich and the poor, the poverty gap in Edinburgh is huge. Anything this plan and the city mobility plan together can do to bridge that gap is welcome.

"We want to close that gap. The city plan is not going to solve everybody's problem forever but it does engage more people in the discussion about how we have a more equal society."