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Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

Thus far in the debate, the minister has admonished several members for not coming to the table to discuss the workability of amendments that are before this Parliament. He said that my approach in section 14D goes too far, y et he has made no overtures to me to talk about making it workable or finding an amendment that would deliver on what I sought to do at stage 2.

I will take the opportunity to address a number of the points that the minister made in his remarks in support of amendment 130. He said that it would be impossible for somebody who lives on green-belt land to build an extension. However, my amendment stated that the developer has to demonstrate why it would not be possible to make that development on existing brownfield land—if a homeowner is looking to build an extension, and does not own the brownfield land that might be available several miles from their house, it would be impossible to build their extension on that brownfield land.

We created the concept of green-belt and brownfield land for a reason. The section that I introduced was in response to a problem that is particular, but not unique, to Edinburgh. Over the past decade, my constituency of Edinburgh Western has experienced a rampant proliferation of housing development, some of it on greenfield land and some of it on much-loved natural heritage land. Liberal Democrats are not instinctively or ideologically opposed to housing—we recognise that Edinburgh needs new housing and we support the growth of Edinburgh’s housing. However, it must be in the right spaces and provided on an intelligent basis.

Just two weeks ago, the SNP-led administration on the City of Edinburgh Council, along with members of other parties, green-lighted a much-unwanted development on the Cammo estate that will see a loss of much-loved areas of natural heritage. I should add that they are not green belt—but that is only because the SNP-led administration changed their designation in 2016. The garden district at the Gyle—again, green-lighted by the City of Edinburgh Council—will see the proliferation of 2,000 homes on areas that are already designated as green belt.

We need to engender discussions around the issue. We cannot have just a lip-service commitment to the idea of green belt or brownfield while there is no legislative imperative for councils to receive representations from developers as to why there is no way of building on a brownfield site. There are many deindustrialised areas in Edinburgh that are crying out for regeneration, and for the development of much-needed houses for mid-market rent and social housing. Frankly, developers are cynically not considering those houses, because they know that they can build mansions on greenfield land in my constituency instead.

I therefore ask members to reject amendment 130. Section 14D is important for instilling a conversation about the use of greenfield at a planning level. It does not lead to a ban on any development whatsoever on greenfield land. I ask the Parliament to reject the minister’s amendment.