Tue, 6 October 2015
A panel of Edinburgh’s industry heavyweights have comprehensively supported the notion that the city is pro-development, but warned that opportunities need to be balanced with heritage preservation in order for Edinburgh to propel its status as a major UK city.
Speaking at Estates Gazette’s latest Question Time, held in the former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in St Andrew Square, a poignant setting to discuss the theme of the city’s heritage, Edinburgh’s key figures showed support for new development opportunities but highlighted the need for further investment.
The new chief executive of city of Edinburgh council, Andrew Kerr, said the council was fully supportive of new developments, but estimated that it would cost £300m to “keep up with development infrastructure to develop as a city” while emphasising that it is an important matter “that we all need to think about together so the city grows sustainably”.
“The population is going to grow, and the council can’t get that £300m over the next five years so it needs to come from somewhere,” he added.
Jim MacDonald, chief executive at Architecture and Design Scotland, agreed and said that there needs to be a clear “vision for the success of Edinburgh in the long term.”
However, he admitted that a vision is only one aspect:“The ability to deliver it relies on local control,” he said.
Polly Purvis, chief executive at ScotlandIS, added that with the right infrastructure and better skills Edinburgh “can take on the rest of the world”.
Chris Stewart, chief executive at Chris Stewart Group and vice chairman of the Scottish Property Federation, is behind the redevelopment of the former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, and pointed out that there are challenges ahead as Edinburgh has “a very intense level of heritage issues,” and there are difficulties for development within the current planning system.
“There are a number of things that we need to deliver and the policies don’t give us the flexibility to do that,” he said.
And a year on from the independence vote, the time is ripe for such opportunities.
“The clarity and certainly has allowed us with confidence to go forward,” said Keith Dobson, head of Savills’ Edinburgh office.
See next week’s Estates Gazette for a full report from the event.