Troubled housing plan is thousands of homes short

The pressure is on to build more new homes in Edinburgh. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
The pressure is on to build more new homes in Edinburgh. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
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A VITAL planning blueprint mired in a bitter political row is thousands of homes short of the city’s housebuilding target – raising fears that the “fatally flawed” four-year process might have to be restarted.

Scottish Government officials say the Capital’s second attempt at producing a Local Development Plan (LDP2) will miss its goal of building 32,000 homes by 2024, even though it has yet to be formally signed off by councillors and is already months behind schedule.

If it fails to get approval, ministers could force the city to open up new areas to housebuilding, cram more homes into parts already earmarked for construction, or scrap the entire blueprint and start again on an LDP3.

Yesterday the Evening News revealed that repeated delays to the document meant the city is officially without any planning blueprint, leaving the Capital open to “planning by appeal”, with developers bypassing the council to win approval from the Scottish Government.

Community Secretary Alex Neil has already overturned one council decision to refuse planning permission for 173 homes at the Edmonstone Estate, with the minister also set to rule on controversial plans for 670 homes at Cammo Fields.

The prospect of yet more delays to the LDP was slammed by Liberal Democrat planning spokesman Councillor Alastair Shields, who said: “This committee has made a hash of this entire process. I think they’re scared about the repercussions this will have on their 
reputations, their seats and the survival of the coalition.”

Planner Robin Holder, who represents housebuilders affected by the blueprint, said the draft LDP2 was “fundamentally flawed” and would need to be rewritten.

He said: “Southeast Edinburgh is identified by the city council as a major growth area and there is a desperate shortage of affordable housing in the city. It is just such a pity that the city council is so many years behind with the production of its LDP.

“The appeal decision confirms that the whole basis of the emerging LDP is fundamentally flawed in its approach to the allocation of housing land. Indeed, many councillors are now openly discussing making significant amendments to the LDP when it goes back to committee in May.

“In my view, this is essential if the plan is to survive scrutiny by the Scottish Government and be deemed fit for purpose.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The difficulties in delivering housing development are as much about economic constraints, which limit existing sites, as the amount of land being made available. The council will consider whether there are other ways of accelerating the delivery of housing.

“As the Scottish Government reporter has pointed out, this cannot be resolved by the allocation of land alone, and we are keen to see the right type of housing delivered in the right place, in order to meet Edinburgh’s needs.”