Innes Smith: Housing emergency - we brought forward land for new homes but Edinburgh did not want it
In light of the recent housing emergency declared by the City of Edinburgh Council, Springfield Group CEO Innes Smith argues that collaborative working between the public and private sectors must result in review, action and crucially, an increase in positive planning decisions, to truly make a difference to the ongoing crisis.
The City of Edinburgh Council has declared a housing emergency. Whilst deeply concerning, sadly this is not the first local authority in Scotland to escalate their housing crisis to emergency status this year, with Argyll & Bute Council also signalling this in June and Glasgow earlier this month.
The City of Edinburgh Council has advised that close to 5,000 households, including many with children, will need to live in temporary accommodation this Christmas. Yet, its emerging City Plan 2030 seems to be seeking to deliver fewer affordable homes than the council itself identifies are required. In addition, the City Plan’s focus on brownfield land, whilst great for sustainability, has had a detrimental impact on the supply of quality new housing for the city, with many of the sites allocated for residential development simply undeliverable.
In 2020, Springfield put forward a major planning application to the City of Edinburgh Council to deliver almost 200 homes – including 66 affordable – regenerating wasteland in the west of Edinburgh close to Little France Park. Frustratingly, the council rejected our plans which was a blow, given the site was and remains vacant, is being used for dumping and has little existing community benefit. It is likely that other developers will also have sites within their ownership that could truly make a difference. With land for housing available, it is hard to understand why the city council do not want it, particularly amidst an emergency. Now is the time to revisit proposals that have been previously refused to identify what could be taken forward to deliver more desperately needed, new homes at pace.
The planning system is far more complex than a simple supply versus demand tick box exercise, but the current housing emergency underlines that a change in tack is needed. The alternative is that we continue as we are and the crisis deepens with more and more families facing future festive seasons without a good home.
It is in our interest to deliver great places for people to live and to work with public and private sector partners to achieve this. In declaring the housing emergency, the council has acknowledged that collaborative working will be key and we wholeheartedly welcome this - private housebuilders like us want to work together and for a common goal. However, collaboration must result in review, action and, crucially, an increase in positive planning decisions – it’s not our words that matter, but the homes we deliver to people that will make a difference.