New school funding plans spark developer criticism

The school will be funded by contributions from developers, such as CALA who are working on this development at Ratho. Picture: Contributed
The school will be funded by contributions from developers, such as CALA who are working on this development at Ratho. Picture: Contributed
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THE Capital is in line for a new primary school and hundreds of homes – sparking criticism of the system which forces firms to cough up extra to build in the city.

The school in south Edinburgh – expected to be financed through developer contributions and at no cost to the council – would serve families from up to 500 “mainly residential” buildings if chiefs at Mactaggart and Mickel are given the go-ahead for work near Gilmerton Station Road.

The Glasgow firm has filed a proposal of application notice to city leaders after they identified the site as a key development area in the Edinburgh Local Development Plan.

But news of the proposal has led to claims that the system of developer contributions is an extra burden on developers and makes many new projects unviable.

Planning consultant Rick Finc, director of Rick Finc Associates in Edinburgh, said: “It creates a disincentive to development. It does create issues with the cost and length of time needed to determine an application and agree the contributions. And it creates issues for the viability of developments across the city – at a time when property values and demand are still recovering from the downturn.”

Another Edinburgh-based planning consultant, who did not want to be named, said: “My view is that community infrastructure should be provided by the public purse because these are facilities that will serve the whole community.

“Another issue that has arisen is that the list of planning gain requirements is sometimes so great that it makes development non-viable. The rule book says these requirements have to be reasonable but there could be disagreement.

“That can delay developments by months and even years – it always strikes me as a very cumbersome approach.”

But locals and political leaders hit back at criticisms of the contributions system.

Gilmerton resident Karen MacLean, 59, said: “The developers are making a profit. They make vast amounts of money.

“They are there to make as much money as they possibly can – of course they should contribute.”

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, Labour member for Liberton and Gilmerton, said: “If these proposals were to get the go-ahead, there will be phenomenal pressure on an already pressurised education system in the south of Edinburgh.

“We are in danger of creating problems for the future if we build housing estates without the proper infrastructure, which developers have a legal obligation to contribute to.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “Where a development creates the need for new infrastructure such as a new school or road network, planning legislation allows the council to seek appropriate contributions from the developer to ensure that the supporting infrastructure can be delivered.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Planning contributions can be sought from a developer where the planning authority considers there is a need to mitigate the impact of a development.

“The developer has a right to challenge the terms of any obligation. This includes a right of appeal to Scottish ministers.”

Making a contribution

CONCERN over developer contributions comes as the Capital deals with a raft of applications featuring sweeteners to help their progress.

Housing giant Cala has unveiled plans for a 112-home development of a derelict quarry near the village of Ratho in west Edinburgh. The plans, part of a wider project to turn the 81-acre quarry into a publicly accessible country park, include a “significant” contribution to the city council to build a footbridge across the Union Canal to link with the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray also recently revealed a masterplan to show how west Edinburgh green belt land could be transformed into a £1 billion “garden district”. Expert planners spent three years drawing up the designs – which include 3500 family homes, university and business villages and a Scottish national garden.

And Murray Estates also wants to develop the urban district to incorporate a new high school, three primary schools and other local amenities.

In the south of the city, Cala and David Wilson Homes, which are building 275 four and five-bedroom properties at Fairmilehead, have agreed to make developer contribution payments to the city council – enabling education chiefs to create extra space at Buckstone Primary.