Daryl Teague: Edinburgh finds itself in a space race for regeneration

Considering greenspace sites is just one way of expanding
Considering greenspace sites is just one way of expanding
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As Scotland’s capital is a net growth city, urban regeneration is paramount to the city’s future.

Edinburgh, like all other cities in the UK, is defined by its boundary and so, the only real opportunity for growth within the city – without utilising greenspace – is urban regeneration.

We are, quite literally, running out of space.

More emphasis needs to be placed on bringing brownfield sites back to life. The City of Edinburgh Council is picking up the baton for social housing and notable regeneration achievements have been made. However, the myriad of derelict or disused buildings that are privately owned need to be utilised to help with the evolution of the city, both physically and socially.

The urban regeneration of specific areas that have been neglected in some parts or specific buildings left to ruin not only provides new accommodation but it also helps to rebuild a community, breathing new life into the area. Just look at areas in London such as Brixton and Kings Cross, both of which now are great locations with a strong sense of community. There’s also the positive example of the regeneration of many industrial sites in Manchester, which has helped to transform the city.

It’s happening here in Edinburgh too. The Bellevue Colonies development in Edinburgh has emerged from a previously redundant eyesore of a site in the Bonnington area of the city. Built in 2013 and completed in 2014, the development is was the first new build colony style of housing in the city, a design synonymous with Edinburgh, and it has helped to create a sense of community – the residents hold annual street parties and this flourishing small community comes together to support and help one another.

Each and every urban regeneration project has to be a considered development with the right balance of units (commercial and residential) and the right design, ensuring the building will deliver. There are a limited number of industrial sites that can be developed within the city boundaries – when they come available, it’s key to maximise them through design. And this is where the City of Edinburgh Council could and should help more.

In Edinburgh, you must protect sight lines, views cannot be blocked. However, there is also a need to increase urban density to get more people living within the city. Something has to give. Do you sacrifice parking? Do you sacrifice green space, something the council is keen to put back in as part of their planning policy?

The biggest barriers put up against developers are amenity-led – especially parking and height. The current planning aspect is too prescriptive and Scotland’s councils generally could be doing more to help the private sector.

The city is a living organism and to continue to grow, it must adapt. Developers as well as the planners must also evolve, must avoid being pinned to the past. A city is not a museum.

Daryl Teague is director of Glencairn Properties discusses the future of urban regeneration