Exclusive:Fresh plans lodged for £1bn Edinburgh city ‘extension’ with thousands of new homes
Fresh plans have been submitted for a major new mixed use development on the western fringes of Edinburgh that has been billed as an “extension of the city.”
Crosswind Developments Ltd is urging councillors to approve its £1 billion vision of what it describes as an “integrated, sustainable community” that would be created over the next 25 years on a brownfield site spanning a disused runway at Edinburgh Airport.
The company, ultimately controlled by a group of investment funds managed by Global Infrastructure Partners, the private equity firm which owns Edinburgh Airport, wants to build thousands of properties as part of the scheme. The latest major proposed expansion mooted for western Edinburgh comes just three months after the City of Edinburgh Council formally declared a housing emergency amid a “crisis” in both the public and private sectors.
According to an additional statement provided by planning consultants, Lichfields, the development, known as Elements Edinburgh, would consist of around 3,000 flats, including affordable housing and student accommodation, around 50,000 square metres of new commercial and office floorspace, and two or three hotels providing 1,020 rooms. It also proposes a new 5,300 square metre centre incorporating retail, leisure, and other commercial and community uses, primary and nursery school provision, and a green urban park.
A masterplan design statement submitted as part of the application states that “a commitment to a pedestrian-first approach” is at the core of the plan, although the Lichfields document notes that around 1,000 car parking spaces would be created.
According to a phasing parameter plan, the entire development, if approved, would be built over the course of 25 years, with around 500 residential units - a mix of one, two and three-bedroom flats - created within the first six years. A planning statement puts the total construction cost of the project at £533 million, and claims it would deliver £8.2m in additional council tax revenues, as well as £4.6m in business rate revenues.
John Watson, chief executive of Crosswind, said: “We’ve been working closely with the council’s planning officials for some time now to unlock this strategically important site in the west of the city and have invested £8m in this project since 2017. Elements Edinburgh will offer homes and commercial space, designed to provide the perfect blend of life, work, learning, and nature for all.
“We believe our proposals are not only notable in Edinburgh and regional terms, but are of national significance in terms of placemaking, sustainability, and economic impact. We want to partner with the best innovators in Scotland and embrace the latest in energy provision; focus on different forms of mobility rather than simply cars; and work in partnership with neighbouring landowners to achieve a joined-up approach to transport and other matters.”
He added: “The new blueprint outlines our vision for the creation of a new community, featuring inclusive housing for a range of needs and incomes, a primary school, flexible places to work, facilities and services to meet daily needs, and generous green spaces that are well connected to the city and beyond by active travel and public transport.”
The application for planning permission in principle represents the latest attempt by Crosswind to realise its goal of creating a major mixed-use development on the site. Its initial plans were submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council in August 2020, but six months later, it appealed to the Scottish Government's planning and environmental appeals division (DPEA) on the grounds of non-determination, given the council had failed to make a decision. In February 2023, ministers decided that the appeal should be dismissed, and that planning permission in principle should be refused.
A covering letter prepared by Jade Scott-Meikle, an associate director at Lichfields, notes that the new plans for the 72 acre site involve a “shift to housing-led development” - an increase of around 500 units compared to what was previously envisaged - with a “substantial reduction” in the level of proposed commercial floorspace.
It also points out that since the DPEA appeal ruling last year, the application site had been identified in City Plan 2030, the proposed new local development plan (LDP) for Edinburgh, as brownfield land and part of a housing-led, mixed-use development in west Edinburgh. “In principle, the proposal to introduce housing-led development and other mixed uses is therefore the settled view of the council and will be supported when City Plan 2030 is adopted,” Ms Scott-Meikle wrote.
Elsewhere, other documents prepared by Lichfields as part of the application note that Crosswind is seeking permission “for a higher number of residential units than is identified in the emerging LDP.” They add that following pre-application discussions with the council and written advice it received last year, the proposed increase is “supported in principle, provided that it can be demonstrated that the site can deliver the increased units without detrimental effects arising or overdevelopment being a concern.”
Steve Dunlop, the former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, was appointed as the new chair of Crosswind earlier this month following the death late last year of the former chancellor and Edinburgh MP, Alistair Darling. The company’s other non-executive board members are Dr Lesley Sawers, interim deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Andrew Sutherland, a former managing director of Miller Group and ex-chairman of the Scottish Property Federation.
The submission of the Crosswind application comes just a month after plans were lodged by a consortium known as West Town Edinburgh for a new 7,000 home development near the airport. The consortium, led by the Drum Property Group which owns the land between Ingliston park-and-ride and the Gogar roundabout, envisages a new community featuring shops, schools, bars, restaurants, and offices in what it has described as a new neighbourhood “on a par with the best new developments taking place across the UK and Europe.”
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