Edinburgh Digital Quarter planning battle will be settled by the Scottish government

The proposed developmentThe proposed development
The proposed development
The developers of a proposed Edinburgh ‘digital quarter’ are set to take their planning battle with the council to the Scottish government.

Crosswind Developments want to transform a 65-acre brownfield site near Edinburgh Airport into ‘Elements Edinburgh’ - encompassing 700,000 square feet of office space, 2,400 homes, hotels, retail units, and leisure facilities.

Previous analysis on the potential economic impact of the development showed that over 6,000 jobs - including 4,800 high-value technology jobs - could be provided on the site.

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The financial analysis report, undertaken by BiGGAR Economics, also predicted the development could boost Scotland’s GVA (Gross Value Added) by £460m per year.

The planning application, submitted in August 2020, shows approximately 14 acres of the site will be given over to green space, including a new informal park complete with a ‘rain garden’ water feature around the Gogar Burn, with a green corridor.

Crosswinds Development is an independent subsidiary of Edinburgh airport's owners Global Infrastructure Partners. The land is owned by Crosswind.

However, the developers have appealed to the Scottish government’s planning and environmental appeals department (DPEA), after Edinburgh City Council planners failed to make a decision on time.

Now, despite the lure of 6,000 jobs, the council is set to fight the appeal, claiming the development is not included in its local development plan - which has earmarked the land for airport expansion.

A report, sent to councillors ahead of a development management committee due to take place on Wednesday March 3, urges councillors to back the planning department’s submission to the DPEA.

It reads: “The current National Planning Framework (NPF) identifies the application site is of strategic importance to Edinburgh Airport.

“No masterplan has been brought forward by the airport that alters the importance of this land for the airport.

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“Therefore, at the present time the nature of the proposed development is contrary to the existing NPF and is not supported by National Planning Policy, the Strategic Development Plan and Local Development Plan (LDP), specifically LDP Policy Emp 4, Edinburgh Airport, which seeks to guide proposals for airport expansion.

“The requirements of this policy have not been met. Firstly, the proposal is not supported by an agreed airport masterplan.

“There is an out-of-date draft masterplan dating from 2016 but this has not been approved by key stakeholders and should therefore be given little or no weight in the determination of this application.

“Secondly, the extent to which the proposal development has functional or locational links to the airport has not been demonstrated.”

Speaking when the proposals first emerged, John Watson, chief executive of Crosswind Development, said the site offered a unique opportunity to create new jobs and drive up the local economy.

He said: "Edinburgh and Scotland should be ideal locations for global technology jobs, but without a dedicated approach to creating the kind of environment technology companies are looking for, it's much harder to bring that investment here.

"These companies want modern, state-of-the-art offices, world-class connectivity, an environment that is attractive to its workforce with easy access to global connections.

“A pool of high-quality graduates is another important factor.

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"Crosswind is, perhaps, one of the best connected, undeveloped sites in Scotland with immediate access to air, rail and road transport."

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