Edinburgh City Council’s plans to build on the capital’s green spaces typify the modern day urban conflict between environment and development. The council’s recent Local Development Plan (LDP) sets out a range of proposals for the construction of new homes across much of the city’s green spaces between 2015 and 2025. Between 3750 and 5080 new homes are planned at sites across the capital – the bulk of which are located in Edinburgh’s west and southeast.
The LDP has stated that development should be focused on four key areas – the city centre; the waterfront regeneration area in the North; west Edinburgh; and southeast Edinburgh. The city’s fast-growing population has placed greater demand on housing – development is inevitable. But the issue is where this development takes place. Duncan Campbell, member of Edinburgh’s Green belt network, said: “If you are going to develop anyway on green belt, mitigation must be of the highest quality so that impacts on the setting of the rest of the green belt is preserved.
“City planners have a tremendous challenge which is emanating from the Scottish Government through national planning frameworks which place a primacy on growth, and the local authorities have to follow that instruction. If they don’t, there are penalties.”
Edinburgh’s planning convener, Ian Perry, recently stated “we expect the vast majority of the new homes to be built on existing and future brownfield sites, such as Leith or Granton. However, we still need to find some green field sites to meet the overall need for additional housing land.” But Mr Campbell says: “It is not beyond the wit of imaginative landscape design to use green space on brownfield sites, where you would be able to have low rise developments in those areas.”
Achieving the right balance is key – and if more can be done to incorporate future brownfield sites into council plans, then environmental groups will be more willing to compromise. The danger amid the scuffles is that if insufficient land is identified where development is acceptable then the Scottish Government will take it on instead. That would mean losing control at a local level on decisions about where housing should go. Mr Perry says: “it may be time to review the whole process and revisit the question of how we handle Edinburgh’s growth and protect its green spaces.”