Major development tabled for sites across the west of Edinburgh would cause gridlock if developers ignore the need for improved infrastructure and more local services, according to a politician.
The proliferation of small and medium housing developments in western Edinburgh has already had a monumental impact on both roads and infrastructure and Liberal Democrats MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said without serious consideration by planners, the situation will only worsen.
City leaders have stressed that £20m has been earmarked by the Scottish Government as part of the City Deal to support public transport infrastructure improvements for the area as identified by the West Edinburgh Transport Appraisal.
Although not opposed to new housing across the city, Mr Cole-Hamilton said a failure to consider the needs of current and new communities could result in greater congestion and air pollution in the area.
However, he praised the efforts of a new £500 million “urban quarter” planned by Parabola for the outskirts of Edinburgh which will create office space and homes.
“It’s important to say neither I nor my party are opposed to new housing – we need it across the city and the country,” he said. “And in fact, the Parabola development is actually an example of a project that has considered the needs that I have asked for.
“There is a medical centre and dentist as part of first phase of the development which is very welcome and I wish more developers would take these key services into serious consideration during initial planning.”
The Capital’s biggest development for well over a decade is earmarked for a swathe of land on both sides of the tram line near the Gyle Shopping Centre.
About 43 acres of undeveloped land to the south of the Edinburgh Park business park would be transformed under the plans.
It is expected to help tackle a shortfall of high quality office space in the city and boost efforts to attract major employers to invest in Edinburgh. Parabola said it believes the vacant land will become home to “one of the most desirable places to live and work in Edinburgh”.
And adding to the developments ambitious “placemaking” will be a “civic square”, 150-seat conference and events facility, bar-restaurant, leisure and medical centre, micro-brewery and specially commissioned works of art would also be created.
Plans for the west also include a 23-acre commercial site at the International Business Gateway near Edinburgh Airport which comprises a 525-room hotel, 200 homes, offices, retail and leisure facilities.
Sir David Murray’s family business, Murray Capital Group, is hopeful of gaining planning consent for the site.
And earlier this year Edinburgh Airport announced plans for offices, homes and industrial buildings on 100 acres of land stretching from south-east of the passenger terminal to nearly as far as the Gogar roundabout.
“High-end” offices at the southern end of the site, light industrial units and warehouses at the north end, and a “relatively modest” amount of housing would be included.
Cllr Gavin Barrie, housing and economy convener, said: “West Edinburgh is a key development zone and is of strategic importance to the city’s economy, with over 37,000 people already working in the area.
“Its transport links are a big draw to investors, with the tram running right through the centre of the area, close proximity to the airport, and a new train station now linking passengers travelling to and from the north with the tram line.
“There are a number of proposed major developments at different stages in the planning process and if the right ones go ahead, they would provide a huge cash injection to Edinburgh’s economy, generating tens of thousands of new jobs.”
Despite the number of much-needed new homes in the city, concerns have been raised over the cumulative impact on an already strained network feeding into the city, were all the development proposals to be successful.
If approved by the Scottish Government, the so-called Garden District would deliver 6000 homes with additional applications proposed for sites at Maybury and Cammo.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said he welcomed whole place development seen at the Parabola site at Edinburgh Park utilising existing transport links and including healthcare capacity which could help relieve the strain on current, settled communities and revitalise that area of the city.
“However, the congestion at Barnton junction and Maybury is already bad and both St John’s Road and Queensferry Road feature every year in the index of the most polluted roads in Scotland,” he said. “The parlous state of road congestion in the west will only get worse without future consideration of the impact of new developments.”
And local residents said they could see no answer to the effect more traffic will have on already laboured routes.
Christine Tait, secretary of Cammo Residents Association said traffic surveys had been carried out for each individual development but focus needs to be on the overall picture.
“These roads are gridlocked for huge parts of the day and with all these extra houses and thousands more vehicles on the road, it will only get worse.”