John McLellan: Opportunities abound as Edinburgh goes west

Edinburgh needs more houses (Picture: Ian Georgeson)Edinburgh needs more houses (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Edinburgh needs more houses (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
The second generation of Baby Boomers is about to descend on West Edinburgh because, according to city council estimates, there is about to be a population explosion.

Planners reckon that most houses will be occupied by six people, which either means a lot of lodging with friends and relatives or pretty intensive, shall we say, maternity activity.

It might sound unrealistic, given the growing number of people living on their own, but that’s one interpretation of a claim that the new estate of 1,400 homes set to win approval at West Craigs will mean 8,000 new patients for local GPs, an average of 5.7 people per household.

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The figure was cited as evidence that the £500m scheme near the airport from West Craigs Ltd and the Dunedin Canmore Housing Association would put intolerable pressure on local health services and was one of the reasons the planning application was rejected last year.

The Scottish Government planning reporters certainly didn’t buy it and last week’s report upholding the developer’s appeal against rejection couldn’t be clearer. “There is no evidence to justify the assumption of 8,000 new patients,” it said.

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While the developers haven’t got all their own way, this is one of a number of arguments the reporters have rejected in what is a significant bloody nose for the planning department.

In crude terms, the message is: “You need the houses, you’ve allocated the land for housing, so stop mucking about and come to an agreement.”

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It is estimated the construction work alone will inject £192 million into the Edinburgh economy over the next 25 years on top of £94m in salaries, and the developer will contribute nearly £2m to the tram project.

If a list of 23 conditions are met then the plans can proceed, and number one is that the whole site is properly master-planned, and that’s as it should be.

Top quality design, materials and cohesive place-making are a must for what will only be a part of a vast expansion westward and it should be the council’s job to ensure there is a continuity about the emerging district which gives it a recognisable and long-lasting form which will stand the test of time as have the tenements and terraces of the city centre.

Shortly, the Scottish Government will be asked to approve 1,300 more homes in the first phase of Sir David Murray’s Garden District, now the last significant objection has been withdrawn by the neighbouring Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture.

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An application for 600 new homes at Cammo has just been submitted and, like West Craigs, is on a site designated for housing in the council’s new local development plan and it will take something drastic for it to fall foul of the planning system.

Add those to the 1,800 new homes earmarked for the Parabola site at Edinburgh Park and that’s just over 5,000 new homes within a two-mile radius of the Gogar Roundabout.

While developers can pay for new school buildings and health centres, finding the staff is not their problem and locals are justifiably concerned that the roads can’t cope with more people trying to get to and from work.

That of course presumes the new residents will follow traditional work patterns and head into town. The Parabola development is a mixed plan which promises workplaces as well as homes and now the dam is beginning to break as far as houses in West Edinburgh is concerned, the challenge is to provide the job opportunities which do not add to the usual commute.

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The go-ahead for West Craigs should be the signal to the council to get talking to Edinburgh Airport about its Crosswind plan across the railway and to get a move on with the International Business Gateway.

Never mind the 2050 Vision, opportunities are staring the city in the face right now.

Kelly Parry’s Midlothian question worth asking in Edinburgh

Ain’t life unfair if you’re in the Midlothian SNP, where council group leader Kelly Parry has been grumbling that her party has been shut out of office by a Labour-Conservative coalition and the council now has its first-ever Tory Provost, Peter Smaill.

But I wonder if Cllr Parry has advanced her argument with her Edinburgh colleagues that the biggest party with the most first preferences should be in the administration ... No, thought not.

Labour councillors vote against their party colleague

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I hope the voting tellers at full council last week had their eyes peeled at the new chair appointment for the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, because they would have spotted that not all the Labour group followed instructions to back the SNP’s Kate Campbell.

There was one abstention, Cllr Lezley Cameron, who was nominated for the post by the Conservatives and so the Labour group effectively voted against their colleague. Funny business these coalitions, and as Cllr Cameron is Cllr Campbell’s deputy on the housing & economy committee, it will make those meetings that little bit more interesting.