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Last June Edinburgh City Council refused an application submitted by George Street-based developers JS & R Mitchell for 350 houses, health and community facilities and allotments on green belt land north of Balerno.
Planning officers said the proposed development – which attracted almost 1,000 objections from local residents – was ‘not considered to be sustainable’, and that people living in the suburb would be ‘heavily reliant upon car usage as the primary mode of transport’.
The local authority added plans did not meet the criteria to build on the city’s green belt, which is protected from most forms of development.
But the applicant, which first applied for planning permission in principle in 2020, argued the new rural estate half a mile from the centre of the village would help to meet growing demands for housing in the capital, with a commitment that 30 per cent of units built would be affordable homes.
“The proposed development has the potential to provide a range of high quality housing, which will include private and affordable homes,” plans previously submitted by Cambridgeshire-based consultants Rapleys, stated.
They added: “A new community facility at the heart of the development will provide valuable new healthcare and leisure facilities, which have the potential to benefit the whole community of Balerno.
“An extended bus route and terminus will also be incorporated within the proposal which will greatly improve connectivity within the northern area of the town and encourage the use of public transport.”
According to plans, a new “pedestrian network” would “maximise connections within and outwith the development”, whilst it was also proposed a disused railway line running through the site could be re-used as a footpath and cycleway, acting as an extension to the footpath at Kingfisher Park and “allowing for connections to the north, south, east and west”.
And it was argued in planning documents sent to the council that the development would “not undermine green belt objectives”.
Following the council’s refusal, JS & R Mitchell appealed to the Scottish Government in a bid to have the decision overturned.
However, Mike Shiel, a Government Reporter appointed by Ministers, upheld the original ruling this week and shared council officers’ concerns about car dependency and the sustainability of the development.
Explaining his decision in a report, he wrote: “I consider that the location of the development would be likely to increase the use of the private car for trips to school and for shopping.
“The current climate change emergency requires that the number of daily car journeys should be reduced drastically in the future. However, the location of new housing developments on the periphery of existing settlements, with relatively limited accessibility by other means of transport, does not necessarily accord with achieving that aim.”
Mr Shiel added there was no evidence from the applicant that supported claims there would be a new bus route to provide public transport to the estate.
“There is no written confirmation, that a bus operator would be willing or able to introduce a new service.”
And he identified other gaps in the proposals, saying there is “no indication” of how the community and health centres would be financed, adding that simply allocating sites for the facilities would “not make them happen”.