Sir David Murray's firm accused of 'kite-flying' over green belt project

SIR David Murray's property empire has been accused of "flying a kite" over plans for a new sports arena and "garden district" on a huge swathe of green belt land near Edinburgh Airport.

Senior councillors have spoken out against the plans by Murray Estates, which would see 600 acres of protected land freed up for development of 3500 homes, a new horticultural garden attraction and a 25,000-capacity sports arena.

Murray Estates has hired one of the main hospitality suites at Murrayfield Stadium to showcase its plans.

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Workshops, seminars and presentations have been organised by the firm, with interest groups offered the chance to meet more than 20 architects, designers and consultants involved with the scheme.

But critics claim his firm has tried to disguise the fact his scheme would go against a number of existing planning policies and would lead to a huge "urban sprawl" being created in the west of the city.

Councillors have defied a gagging order from officials over the development to express concerns that Murray Estates has "jumped the gun" over the scheme by holding a 400,000 showcase of the plans and is "flying a kite" over the 1 billion development.

The Scotsman told in June how Scotland's answer to Cornwall's Eden Project, would be created at the end of the M8 with a 25 million garden complex hoped to become one of Scotland's leading visitor attractions.

It emerged last week that Murray Estates is trying to lure both Edinburgh Rugby and Heart of Midlothian Football Club to the proposed sports stadium, with work due to start in 2013.

However, The Scotsman can reveal there is mounting discontent within the city council over the scheme - earmarked for the site which Sir David's property firm had proposed for a stadium for Hearts in the 1990s only for the local authority to throw the plans out.

Jim Lowrie, the council's current planning convenor, said: "It does look like Murray Estates is flying a kite with these proposals. Although there is some development in the west of the city this is clearly green belt land. It is against the current policies of the council. That's not obvious from their plans.

"They are obviously entitled to bring forward proposals but there is concern that people are being given the impression that this consultation is official and that there are no issues over the green belt."

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Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "I know some councillors are very concerned about this proposal and what is going to happen to the green belt in west Edinburgh. There are a great many hurdles for this company to overcome."

Local Conservative councillor Alastair Paisley said: "This is David Murray flying a huge kite over west Edinburgh in the form of the new sports stadium to try to get the planning regulations changed.This development would clearly be a major breach of the planning regulations in the west of the city."

Jestyn Davies, managing director of Murray Estates, said: "We are following Scottish Government guidelines on what kind of consultation should be carried out over these kind of developments."