Kirkliston councillor blasts school ‘ransom’ pledge by housing developers

A councillor has warned that a village “will not be held to ransom for their children’s education” over claims house-builders are pledging to hand over land for new schools on the understanding that proposals to construct homes on greenbelt land are approved.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 6:58 pm
Taylor Wimpey are hopeful greenfield site can be developed. Pic: Michael Gillen

Liberal Democrat Cllr Louise Young has blasted a letter sent to members of the authority’s education committee while it deliberated a report on future schools consultations. The letter from Dawn Isaac, strategic land manager for Barratt & David Wilson Homes, said developers could provide land for new schools in Kirkliston. But Cllr Young has been left “astonished” after the letter said that “should the council support our proposals, an application could be submitted immediately”.

The letter adds: “We recognise the requirement for a new primary school in Kirkliston and that the site represents one of the only potentially suitable locations for a new west Edinburgh secondary school.

“We therefore confirm that we would be willing to make land available for both a new primary and secondary school within our proposals for this site. We can also confirm that the landowner is supportive of these proposals.”

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Education officials admit that “school roll projections show that there is a continuing need for further primary school capacity in Kirkliston”, regardless of new homes being built in the village.

The developers, Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey, are hopeful that their greenfield site in the east of Kirkliston will be included in the Capital’s 2030 local development plan for housing and education.

Cllr Young, who also sits on the council’s education committee, said: “I find it astonishing that major developers such as Barratts and Taylor Wimpey think they can get support for hundreds of new homes in Kirkliston by offering land for a new high school.

“Residents in Kirkliston will not be held to ransom for their children’s education with some land trade off.

“This letter to members of the education committee in the middle of their deliberations appears to offer land for schools in exchange for support of a major housing application. It risks creating a blatant disregard for the planning process.”

Education convener, Cllr Ian Perry, confirmed that there is already an existing need for new schools provision in Kirkliston and the wider west of the Capital.

He said: “Everyone agrees that new education infrastructure is required in Kirkliston.

“However from an education perspective there is no direct link to extra housing being required for new schools to be built and any applications for new housing in the area would be a matter for the council’s planning committee.”

Councillors previously approved that negotiations for a secondary school site in Kirkliston should move forward – with a public consultation taking place “when practical” to do so and that “no site for a new secondary school has been secured”.

Speaking on behalf of developers, Andrew Roberts, senior strategic land and planning manager for Taylor Wimpey said: “We can confirm that we have been in discussion with Edinburgh City Council’s education department regarding the provision of land for a new secondary school to serve the west of Edinburgh, as well as a new primary school for Kirkliston.

“We would naturally like to take this discussion forward but we fully appreciate the local authority has a due process that it must follow, particularly in relation to the allocation of land for development through the local development plan.

“Our update to the education committee simply moves to clarify that our proposals could make the land provision that is required for both schools.”