It is very well known that Edinburgh remains the most prosperous UK city outside London.
In my new role as housing and economy convener of City of Edinburgh Council, my first priority is going to be to ensure that this prosperity reaches everyone, in every neighbourhood of the city.
I recognise that jobs growth alone has not been sufficient to deliver sustained improvements in living standards for everyone and the time has come to take a good look at why there are still people living in Edinburgh who are not sharing in this prosperity. At the heart of our economy strategy is the message that everyone must have the opportunity to benefit from Edinburgh’s success.
Our economy is going from strength to strength and has shown great resilience during tough economic times but we need to be fairer to everyone in terms of wages, opportunity, access to housing, education and good careers if we are to help it to grow further. It is also vital to the city’s economy that housing remains affordable in the city.
The economy strategy, which will be presented in June 2018, will set out an action plan to tackle inequality and poverty. This is an important shift in the focus of our work.
My passion lies in tackling Edinburgh’s chronic housing shortage. My first task, as chair of the homelessness task force, is to stop families with children being temporarily housed in bed and breakfasts by June, as we know this can make schooling children and access to cooking facilities difficult. I will also reduce the number of people being temporarily housed in B&Bs and the time they spend in them. It is also vitally important that we reduce the number of people sleeping rough.
Along with our housing association partners, we are delivering the biggest council-led affordable housing programme in the UK with 20,000 affordable homes planned for the next decade.
This will help us to tackle the shortage of good quality homes for people on low and middle incomes in the city. There are currently more than 2000 affordable and low cost homes under construction on 31 sites across the Edinburgh. This will make a big difference, but it’s just the start.
To help support the Capital’s continued growth, as a council, we are also taking a proactive approach to stimulate development.
One of our priorities is to unlock brownfield sites for house builders and developers so that they can deliver the quality housing that we so desperately need and the space to allow businesses to start up, grow and thrive.
Last month we bought the National Grid site at Granton on Edinburgh’s waterfront. This purchase is another step towards the delivery of the Granton Masterplan, an ambitious vision that will see the area transformed into a vibrant new community.
This is hugely important to us as the waterfront is one of seven key strategic development areas identified in the Edinburgh and South East City Region Deal, signed by all partners last summer.
In addition to land for housing, community and business development, the site, set in parkland, includes the iconic last remaining gas holder in the city and the former Granton railway station, both of which are grade B listed buildings. Given the significance of these structures they will form a key role in the development proposals for the land and give a focus and identity to the new community.
In the west of the city we built industrial units after carrying out research which identified an increasing shortage of good quality industrial space. These units are now fully let. It is clear that there is a need for quality accommodation for businesses that are struggling to expand. Although all of the units are now let, officers are still receiving enquiries and this is a model we are keen to replicate elsewhere in the future.
The population in Edinburgh is at an all-time high and continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. This growth brings challenges of increased pressure on housing, transport and public services and I look forward to playing my part in ensuring that everyone in the city has the opportunity to access quality jobs and housing in the future.
Councillor Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, Edinburgh City Council.