This week we heard from Dave Anderson ,Edinburgh's Director of City Development, that plans are afoot to build another 'city expansion' this time at the western edge of the city. The area is to be provided with some £30 -£40million of infrastructure, and will of course be well connected to the tram (at least it is at the end of the tramline where a tram depot is being constructed!), and aims to promote creative design capturing the elegance, walkability and livability of the New Town!
Yet, it appears to be another case of a very large development being promoted by a single developer. City Planners are rumoured to have employed architects 7N Architects to draw up a design framework for an Arena, hotels, office blocks and of course a public square.
Whilst some suggest this may be due to development being pushed out of the city by the ever increasing costs of developing brownfield sites in town, there is also a significant number of large scale developments being proposed in the city centre.
With the new planning process well underway, large developments must now include pre-application consultation. This should allow for discussion early on with all stakeholders and of course the costs of consultation are to be borne by the developers but does it work? Is it an improvement to the previous system at either informing the public how to participate or listening to the communities when they do?
The city centre now has many large new developments going through the new system yet the evidence collected and concerns raised by communities in the last 5 years appears to have had little or no impact in shaping the proposals now being brought forward.
In 2008 SOOT undertook the Canongate Project. This community action research highlighted the need for much more affordable and family housing, as well as the desire for more sustainable development and making better use of existing public resources to meet local social and economic needs.
Many of the developments being proposed in the city centre now still are focused on student housing, hotels and apart-hotels, offices and retail/cafes. They still are designed on large scale sites where the existing buildings and structures will be demolished regardless of their potential adaptability for other uses and the plans are usually fairly well advanced by the time the public are invited to comment.
Most recent to be announced is the redevelopment of sites at Sugarhouse Close and the demolition of the Moray House University sports complex on Holyrood Road.
This adds to the additional student accommodation planned for the rear of Festival Theatre and around the Meadows. The Council are also undertaking a consultation on Student Housing however as the draft planning guidance does little encourage spreading student accommodation across the city we are left to wonder if the city centre will still be home to families in the future.