Green belt: The council is in a no-win position

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There are few more controversial issues than planning in Edinburgh. When you throw in a suggestion of building on green belt land then it can spark (almost) tram-like ire.

For the city council, it is a debate best avoided at all costs.

Keep the green belt green and that’s an end to the matter – after all, there are plenty of other places to be developing to allow the Capital to meet its housing demands, aren’t there?

The trouble is, there are not. Not enough, in any case.

According to the Scottish Government, Edinburgh needs 16,000 extra affordable homes in the next ten years to meet the demands of a growing population. It means whichever way you look at it, the city is going to have to expand, and while that is certainly a good thing, not everyone is going to be happy.

And so the city council is left in a no-win position.

Refuse development and risk the Scottish Government overturning decision after decision on appeal, opening the floodgates to piecemeal development which could quickly spiral out of control.

Allow it, and suffer the wrath of the green lobby while risking mistakes which cannot be rectified in the future.

The only solution appears to be to identify areas for sensitive development which, while inevitably causing some controversy, will enable the planners to keep a check and control the building programme.

It is vital that the city retains this control as, whatever your views of the planning process in Edinburgh, it is geared to protect our city for future generations.

At the moment, the city council seems to be heading broadly in the right direction with the new Local Development Plan. It must be careful, however, to take full account of local opinion and debate the options thoroughly before making a final decision.

We are surrounded by the planning mistakes of the past in Edinburgh which can take decades to put right, if they ever are.

Building on the green belt is controversial for a good reason.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone.