The approval of a vital blueprint for housing development across Edinburgh has been delayed by councillors until after the election, in a move which has angered residents, frustrated developers and drawn criticism for being politically motivated.
Discussion and a vote on the second version of the city’s Local Development Plan (LDP2) had been due to take place next week but has now been pushed back to mid-May.
Critics fear the document, which will determine whether homes are built at controversial sites including Cammo, is being held up to avoid political embarrassment ahead of the UK general election.
The planning blueprint won’t now be considered until 14 May at the earliest – a week after the general election on 7 May.
The move means that decisions on controversial developments are effectively being left in the hands of the Scottish Government, which called in six contentious development proposals across the Lothians in December, including plans for 670 homes at Cammo, on the western edge of Edinburgh.
No amendments can now be made to the blueprint before it is considered by the Scottish Government’s reporter and planning minister Alex Neil.
Residents battling the proposed development yesterday hit out at councillors for “passing the buck” as it emerged that they would be forced to wait months longer for clarity about the future of their communities.
And experts warned that frustrated developers could now decide to circumvent the system and go for “planning by appeal”, turning to the Scottish Government to push through controversial housing projects after years of waiting for guidance which was to be provided by LDP2.
A planning industry expert with detailed knowledge of the LDP2 process said Edinburgh was faced with an “unprecedentedly large” housing land shortfall, and “councillors and officers recognise they are failing” in their efforts to produce a plan to deal with the shortage.
The source said: “Politics rules all, and there were members of the Labour Party who have been told: if you do this, we’ll make sure you lose your seat. It’s high stakes, so it would have been an easy decision to pull it. Officers would have had their head in their hands.
“What we currently have is planning gridlock, because the council won’t approve applications because it doesn’t have a plan, and it can’t approve a plan.
“The council have said in all their documents: don’t worry, our plan is just over the horizon. It’s clearly not.”
Another planning expert said more greenbelt land could eventually be added to ensure that the city meets house building targets, and warned that the delay could stretch on for years.
The source said: “I think the council understands now that there is a significant shortfall in housing land. That’s partly the reason why I suspect there is a delay, because there is obviously a political decision to be made.
“This is effectively the third bite of the cherry. They’ve gone through LDP1, which was insufficient, and LDP2, which is inefficient.”
In a statement, planning committee convener Ian Perry said: “Following consultation with the head of planning, it has become apparent it would be difficult for the committee to finalise the Local Development Plan until the Scottish Government makes a decision on whether or not the proposed housing at Cammo should be approved in line with its allocation as a proposed housing site in the plan.
“Until this decision is taken, the committee can’t determine the number of houses to be included in the other greenbelt sites.”