Plans for 700 homes on Edinburgh green belt blocked by councillors

Proposals for housing at the South East Wedge site
Proposals for housing at the South East Wedge site
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PLANS to build 701 homes on green belt land in the south east of the Capital have been refused planning permission.

The city council’s development management sub-committee unanimously rejected proposals by Springfield Homes to build on the South East Wedge, close to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. But the plans are set to be finally determined by the full council next month.

The proposals were submitted in two separate applications – one 36 hectare area for 144 houses and 358 flats and another 199 homes and public open space on a 6.5 hectare plot.

More than 300 of the proposed homes would have been built on council-owned land, a sale that developers claimed could see a windfall of around £5m for the authority.

Planning officers told councillors that the site is “designated as green belt” and that “housing on the site is not justified in terms of need”.

They added: “We don’t need houses here and we don’t have a shortfall in the five-year housing land supply.

“There has been a history of fly tipping on this site. The only fly tipping remaining is on the developers’ ownership.”

The city council is exploring turning the site into a “strategic parkland”. In the council’s local development plan, the area is “identified as a green space proposal in order to provide a landscaped, multi-functional parkland, woodland and country park, linking to Midlothian”.

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Springfield Homes’ chief executive, Innes Smith, told the hearing that the current green belt space on the site is “not a particularly safe area and not somewhere you would want to walk on the evening” and pointed out that his plans will invest £1m in upgrading the remaining green space for the council.

He added: “Edinburgh needs good quality housing. This development creates jobs and makes a significant economic contribution.

“We like providing community space that people can use. If my kids go in that grass, they disappear. The community wants a park there that they can use. I’m Im sure the parks team could use £1m.”

Cllr Maureen Child quizzed the developers as to why they haven’t put measures in place on their land to stop fly tipping. Mr Smith said it was due to “an oversight on our part”.

Councillors unanimously rejected both applications.

Planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner said: “I simply cannot support it and wish to uphold the green belt. There’s massive health benefits to communities to have access to that space. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for that part of Edinburgh to have that park.”

Cllr Child added: “I think it’s profoundly important that we have an area in this part of the city that’s biodiverse and residents living nearby beginning to enjoy that area. I think this is a fantastic opportunity.”

SNP ward Cllr Kate Campbell, welcomed the decision, which will need to be ratified by the full council as part of the land is owned by the authority.

She said: “Green corridors are vital to biodiversity and well-being. But it’s also clear that this particular bit of land is becoming a park that is important to the community, evidenced by the amount of activity now taking place within it.

“There’s also been considerable investment with key infrastructure already in place. So I’m glad that the right decision has been taken and the importance of the planning policies on the green belt recognised by the committee.”