SNP MPs want Capital development planning changed

SNP MSP Colin Keir. Picture: Bill Henry
SNP MSP Colin Keir. Picture: Bill Henry
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NATIONALIST MPs and MSPs will lobby the Scottish Government to have the Capital’s planning blueprint changed, less than a week after it was passed with help from the party’s own councillors.

Two SNP politicians say they are “annoyed” and “disappointed” at the council’s decision to adopt a Local Development Plan (LDP) that opens the door to thousands of homes being built on the green belt in the east and west of the city.

What’s the point of having a planning committee that doesn’t want to make any decisions?

Colin Keir

However, Colin Keir MSP and Michelle Thomson MP stopped short of criticising their SNP colleagues on the council’s planning committee, who voted to approve the plan.

The city’s housing blueprint is now in the hands of the Scottish Government’s planning reporter, who has three months to evaluate it before deciding whether to sign it off. The reporter answers to Communities Secretary Alex Neil, who will decide the future of one site, Cammo Fields, after a planning appeal by a developer was called in by the government.

Mr Keir, the representative for Edinburgh Western at Holyrood, who tweeted his anger at the planning committee’s decision last week, said he would raise the LDP with Mr Neil.

He said: “It’s almost a dereliction of duty on the part of the planning committee. You have a situation where people want these local plans to be 
decided locally, and the planning committee have had two shots at this, but have washed their hands of it – I suspect on more political grounds than anything else – and passed it to the minister to say, you make up your mind.

“What’s the point in having a planning committee that doesn’t want to make any decisions?

“The leadership of the planning committee, and the planning officers, are either not up to their jobs or they’re walking away from decision-making.

“Some of the councillors in the committee were obviously unhappy at having to support the LDP, but we have to ask the question, do you want local democracy to take these decisions or don’t you? Unfortunately, they have basically said, we can’t do this.”

And Mrs Thomson, the new SNP MP for Edinburgh West, said she would also be contacting the minister to express her disapproval.

She said: “I do want to articulate to the government minister, on behalf of my constituents, that there is considerable concern, and I would note my disappointment at the planning process in this instance.”

Mr Keir has opposed housing proposals at Cammo for several years, while Mrs Thomson pledged to fight development there in her election literature.

The LDP was passed unchanged as councillors from the SNP-Labour administration backed out of a plan to spare sensitive areas of green belt from thousands of new homes.

A proposal had been floated in the run-up to last week’s planning committee meeting to remove areas such as Cammo, Maybury, Brunstane and Curriemuirend Park from the plan, and replace them with the Garden District, near Gogar, where up to 3500 homes could be built. But under pressure to approve the LDP rather than delay it further by making changes, Labour and SNP councillors voted to adopt the plan, but included a recommendation to the planning reporter to consider objections raised by a number of communities.

Only SNP economic development leader Frank Ross broke the party whip, voting against after calling the plan a “fantasy”.

Those voting in favour included deputy SNP leader Sandy Howat, despite branding the assessment of council planners “mince”, and Deputy Lord Provost Deidre Brock, also a newly-elected SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith.