Scottish capital sets out environment-focused development strategy

Out-Law News | 29 Oct 2021 | 1:15 pm | 1 min. read

The City of Edinburgh Council has laid out plans for the city’s development over the next decade, with environmental policies at the heart of the document.

The council said Edinburgh had to become more resilient and adaptive to future climate shocks, and also to be part of a ‘green recovery’ by reversing biodiversity loss and protecting and improving green spaces. The plan also sets out aims to reduce inequalities and improve wellbeing.

The Edinburgh City Plan 2030 (204 page / 9.17MB PDF) will guide development between 2022 and 2032. Its goals for the city include maximising the use and development of brownfield land over greenfield land and requiring all new buildings to have net-zero operational emissions.

The council is also aiming to secure a minimum 35% affordable housing contribution from new developments, and direct new development towards existing infrastructure in an ‘infrastructure first’ approach.

The plan will also address housing shortages in the city by placing limits on the creation of short-term let properties. Residential properties would only have their change of use approved if their change fulfilled a community need, in order to preserve housing for residents and to stop potential residential property from being diverted into holiday rentals.

Areas given priority for development under the plan are Edinburgh West, the Waterfront, and the BioQuarter. The overarching vision of new development is to form the city into a network of 20-minute walkable neighbourhoods.

The plan’s environmental policies will bring Edinburgh in line with the targets set by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. The council said the plan would help deliver net zero emissions for Edinburgh by 2030, 15 years ahead of the 2045 statutory deadline.

Planning expert James Gibson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “Sustainability is at the heart of the 2030 plan, as evidenced by a ‘brownfield first’ approach and the striking omission of any new green belt land identified for housing. The question is whether enough brownfield land – much of which is already in active use – can be released to tackle the housing shortfall in Edinburgh.”

“An increase in the minimum affordable housing provision follows a similar trend to elsewhere in the UK, including mayoral policy in London. While this is geared at capitalising on a buoyant housing market in Edinburgh, such an ambitious target will inevitably present viability issues and could have the unintended impact of stymieing essential new housing development,” Gibson said.

The Edinburgh 2030 plan follows the publication in November 2020 of the Scottish government’s position paper for the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4), which put addressing climate change at its heart. The government is aiming to consult on NPF4 later this autumn.”

A period of representations on the Edinburgh 2030 plan will be run for six weeks, beginning on 7 November.