Consultation over Edinburgh city 'extension' set to get underway

New plans come after Scottish ministers rejected previous project

It is one of the most significant economic developments slated for Edinburgh this side of the millennium, albeit one that fell at the first hurdle. But now, those behind the Crosswind project have picked themselves up and are preparing to finish what they started.

More than three years after its initial application for a mixed use development on the city’s western fringes was lodged with City of Edinburgh Council, the firm behind the initiative, Crosswind Developments Ltd - whose high-profile directors include former chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling - has come back to the table with fresh plans.

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The company, wholly owned by Global Infrastructure Partners, the owners of Edinburgh Airport, wants to create what it calls an “extension of the city” - a new community featuring not just housing, but “a thriving commercial and residential hub.” Full details of its revamped vision, now known as Elements Edinburgh, have yet to emerge, but Crosswind promises a “innovative, inclusive, and exciting addition to the city” that will drive economic growth.

If such proposals sound familiar, there is a good reason. Crosswind’s initial plans were submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council in August 2020. It sought permission for up to 95,200 square metres of business floorspace, up to 2,500 residential units, and 8,200 square metres of leisure and retail floorspace.

Six months later, it appealed to the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division (DPEA) on the grounds of non-determination, given the council had failed to make a decision. In February this year, ministers decided that the appeal should be dismissed, and that planning permission in principle should be refused.

On Wednesday, the work by Crosswind to start again begins in earnest when it hosts the first of two public events at the Gyle shopping centre, part of a fresh consultation around its grand plans for what it describes as a “sustainable, 20 minute, car-lite neighbourhood” at the 65 acre brownfield site near Edinburgh Airport.

So will it succeed? It is impossible to say at present, especially with so little detail around the revisited plans. Paperwork lodged by Crosswind with the local authority’s planning service indicates that the latest proposed development will be “in excess of two hectares” of a site exceeding 29 hectares, with housing, shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels, leisure and ‘non-residential’ institutions all part of the mix. A website set up by Crosswind states that there will be 2,500 homes, almost 900 of which are affordable.

A visualisation of the new development prepared by Crosswind Developments Ltd. Picture: CrosswindA visualisation of the new development prepared by Crosswind Developments Ltd. Picture: Crosswind
A visualisation of the new development prepared by Crosswind Developments Ltd. Picture: Crosswind

In a press release promoting the new consultation, Crosswind specified that the housing would be “inclusive” and “for a range of needs and incomes.” The new community, it added, would also include a new primary school, flexible places to work, and “generous green spaces” well connected to the city and beyond by active travel and public transport.

John Watson, Crosswind’s chief executive, said the feedback from the consultation would “inform a new master plan” for the site, adding: “We will continue to work closely with the council to create a plan that meets everyone’s needs, as we work collaboratively with our neighbours in the west of Edinburgh to ensure a coordinated urban expansion that delivers real benefits to the city and to Scotland as a whole.”

A crucial test will be whether the development is judged to be a good fit with the new Edinburgh local development plan, known as City Plan 2030. The blueprint, which runs to 200 pages, is currently being considered by the Scottish Government.

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Significantly, while ministers agreed that there would be “a number of significant beneficial socio-economic effects” arising from the initial Crosswind proposal, including increased GVA, housing, and open space, they found that it ran contrary to the local development plan, and that there were “no material considerations that would justify granting planning permission in principle.”

They also cited the potential impact of the project on other areas of the city. As their decision letter pointed out: “Ministers agree with the reporter that it would be inappropriate to give approval to such a significant quantum of ‘town centre’ floorspace in an out of centre location when the effects that could have on existing centres are unknown.”

But what do key political figures in the city make of Crosswind’s latest plans? According to both the local MP and MSP, the jury is out.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and the MSP for Edinburgh Western, said: “In the last couple of decades, west Edinburgh has seen a proliferation of new housing development, often on much loved greenbelt, and often without any thought as to the impact on local amenities, particularly local healthcare and traffic infrastructure. The Lib Dems have joined community councils in opposing several significant developments.

“That said, my party is not ideologically opposed to new housing, and Edinburgh desperately needs new residential accommodation, particularly mid-market and social housing. So I’m not close minded to the Crosswind development, because it’s situated as it is on brownfield land, without the impact on our much loved natural heritage of developments like Cammo.”

Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, said: “At the moment, I don’t think I’d be taking any position on this plan, because the local city plan is the important thing, that has to be paramount. If this plan doesn’t follow the new development plan, then there’d have to be a very good reason for going against it.”

Liz McAreavey, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said it was currently engaging with its ‘place’ group, members, and relevant developers as part of the consultation, and that it was premature to comment. But she added: “Edinburgh does have an acute housing shortage, with high levels of homelessness and people living in temporary accommodation for extended periods. We would like to see greater collaboration between the public and private sector to find solutions to these critical economic and social challenges.”



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