Council cashing in on property sell-off

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A sell-off of council-owned land and property is under way in a bid to raise millions for new public projects and kick-start the Capital's development market.

The city council is lining up 15 separate deals across the city that could ease the way for developers to press ahead with massive projects that will include new housing, hotels, student flats and retail.

Eight of the sites are expected to bring in 15 million for the council, while the other seven sites have not had valuations put on them but are set to raise several million pounds more.

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The money raised is likely to go into a new "investment fund" that can be used to support council projects, such as street or building improvements. The biggest cash boost is set to come from the sale of a council depot at Inverleith Park to a developer that would create a "high quality residential" scheme. The Arboretum Place site is expected to fetch in excess of 9m.

The former home of Spartans Football Club, City Park, is set to be sold to the Link Housing Association for 5m. The company would create a huge scheme made up of three- quarters of affordable housing.

Plans have also been unveiled to put a prestigious site at Anchor Close, just off the Royal Mile, on the market. The site currently contains a former legal office that council chiefs believe could be converted into a hotel, an office or apartments.

The former Lutton Court Business Centre, on Bernard Terrace in Newington, is to be leased to the NHS, which plans to create two doctor surgeries and a dentist, as well as housing on the upper floors.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "The important thing is that the council is taking responsibility for kick-starting regeneration across the city.

"Each individual site will have its own local and city-wide issues but what the city is trying to do is maximise development opportunity through the release of some of its own assets."

Council chiefs are also in discussions about ways of getting work started at the massive Shawfair site at the former Monktonhall Colliery in Midlothian.

Almost 5000 new homes, schools and industrial units were planned at the site, where the city council and Midlothian Council are among the development partners, but the plans were thrown into doubt last year when lead developer Miller Group pulled out.

Now the city council is in talks with the other developers - Buccleuch Estates, MacTaggart and Mickel, and Morston Assets - about selling its stake for an upfront payment and a future share of profits.

A new approach is also to be taken to bring about the regeneration of Craigmillar. Council-owned developer Parc will now act as a "facilitator" for the private sector rather than carrying out development itself.

Interest from a supermarket developer in a council-owned site close to the old B&Q store at Niddrie Mains Road is said to have been "rekindled", while negotiations about the sale of the former Niddrie Mill Primary School are at an "advanced stage" with a residential developer.

The deal could see the old school building, thought to be the last remaining building built from "Niddrie brick", being saved and converted into housing.

Craigmillar-based social enterprise Forth Sector, which helps support people who are unable to secure meaningful employment, is also in talks with council chiefs about signing a long-term lease on the former Duddingston Yards industrial units, which includes 14 units on a one-acre site.

The company would spend 2m developing the site into an "employability" training and development centre for disadvantaged people. The long lease would include an upfront payment based on the market value of the land, currently estimated at around 250,000.

A new two-year business plan is also being drawn up for Edinburgh's Waterfront and a conditional agreement has already been concluded on a site at Harbour Road, which is to become a hotel.

Dave Anderson, director of the city development department of the council, said: "In a sign of an awakening residential market, development opportunities are being concluded at sites that have lain dormant for a while.

"The resulting improvement of market conditions has allowed the (council's) physical development support team to start to unlock development and investment at a number of sites in the city."