Comment: Planning to let Edinburgh flourish

Watt calls for 'a clear and positive process' that encourages more developments in the city. Picture: contributed.
Watt calls for 'a clear and positive process' that encourages more developments in the city. Picture: contributed.
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Despite challenging market conditions, Edinburgh is a city that is widely seen as open for business. There is a clear demonstration of this in the host of developments either in progress or planning.

There is significant investment from housebuilders around the edges of the capital, and many new developments and improvements are also booming in the city centre. The new Edinburgh St James construction continues, and a new film studio in Leith is planned. These projects are fantastic examples of what happens when a city is open to investment. These developments will bring returns through the creation of jobs, as well as bringing new audiences to the capital that may have not considered the city before – either to visit or invest in.

Edinburgh also benefits from a regular stream of “best place” awards. Whether related to living, working or visiting, businesses need to take advantage of such recognition to encourage inward investment. We need to ensure there is a clear and positive process that encourages even more developments within the city limits.

This comes from a shared belief in growth and progress from all quarters, and in practice, this is not possible without a dynamic planning process focused on building for the future.

Currently the path to planning approval appears much too difficult and predicated on “no” and not “yes”. However, it is a process that we must approach with a much more positive outlook. Edinburgh’s future economic prosperity will be defined by its ability to develop and deliver the best attractions. As such, those involved in the planning process must be clear on how their crucial role in approving applications will affect Edinburgh’s, and Scotland’s, future wealth and success. A prime example of this is The Old Royal High School, which has been left empty for almost five decades.

If Edinburgh is to continue to attract high-profile investment, it is important that the planning process and personnel work hand in hand with business, and that it is clarified very quickly whether a project will be approved. They should work together to find an acceptable solution, not always wait for business to propose and then play “ping pong” for years at enormous cost to business and the city in lost opportunity.

To maintain this interest from the global investor community, we need to ensure that there is a clear and positive process in place that encourages even more developments within the city limits. Projects that will provide a significant contribution to the local economy and help to create jobs, raise the city’s profile and help maintain its heritage should be jointly and positively achieved. If we don’t follow this approach, then it will potentially harm the future success of the capital, but also impact the interest of investors in Scotland generally.

By David Watt, executive director, IoD Scotland