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Why are developers being allowed to build on greenfield sites, and why are the new builds often so ugly? (Edinburgh)

(8 Posts)
Solopower1 Fri 24-May-13 20:54:51

Apologies to anyone who lives in a new build and is perfectly happy there. Obviously people need housing (and jobs in the construction industry). But why are the houses not built on brown field sites? If they were, they would actually improve the local area, and not ruin the quality of life of the local people.

And why are they often so unattractive? Huge concrete blocks with tiny windows and rooms so tiny that you can barely take two strides in any direction.

According to this article, local councils are in the pockets of the developers, who appear to be completely lacking in any sense of responsibility to the local community. But I don't understand why the members of the council aren't as concerned as we are to protect our environment? Isn't it their job to stand up for us rather than let the developers walk all over us? Why do they allow the land banking that is going on, according to the article?

This article is about a planned development in Craighouse, Edinburgh, but this sort of thing is happening everywhere. I've cut and pasted some bits from the article to give you a flavour.

'CRAIGHOUSE is a stunning hilltop site on one of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills. A highly protected landscape with Grade-A listed buildings dramatically set against woodland, rolling parkland sweeps down to some of the most wonderful views in the city taking in the castle, Arthur’s Seat, North Berwick Law and the Lomond Hills. For generations, the local community and wider public have used this beauty spot for walking, bike-riding, watching fireworks, and climbing trees.

In March, the Craighouse Partnership’s application to put c.178,000 square feet of new-build development, plus roads and car-parks on this treasured area triggered one of the largest numbers of objection letters ever received by the city’s planning department for a single planning application. ...

Edinburgh is potentially facing a green-space crisis. ... A major reason given for this is that the Scottish Government has demanded that more land be released for development. This, despite the fact that developers are already sitting on plentiful land-banked sites with planning permission to provide enough new housing stock for many years.

Land-banking is where developers gain planning permission for a site, thereby dramatically increasing its land value - and let it sit as an asset on their books or sell it on. They may sit on the site for many years or, indeed, have no plans to develop it themselves, merely taking money out of the site. Some developers boast of banks of thousands of consented sites on their balance sheets. Land-banking is a massive problem in Scotland - which neither the Council nor the Scottish Government are tackling. Once a site has increased its value, there is no need for a developer to build on it to see that value realised.

The estimates used for housing over the next 5 years are widely accepted to be far too high, and were based on excessive optimism of recovery in the housing market. ...'

unlucky83 Sat 25-May-13 11:10:07

In Scotland too and similar problem - the Scottish Government want to increase the population and councils want developers to pay for improvements in infrastructure etc...(and I sometimes wonder if brown envelopes are involved - but of course I would never say that would I.)..
At the moment grateful for the property crash ...
It is all so confusing ...we had a Structural plan (decided how many new houses we needed) and the Local plan (where they were going to put these houses) this was never made clear. I objected to the Local plan (increase the no of houses in our village by a third in 20 years - no community could stand that and with access roads that were designed for horse and carriages). But my objection and lots of others didn't count because the numbers were decided by the Structural needed to object to both...
(We have had a few new houses built over recent years - they are all executive 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms etc - not the housing we need here for first time buyers or retirement bungalows for the locals - and for the new housing the developers supposedly have to supply affordable housing - but can give the council money instead!)
Now the structural plan will be overturned by the Tay Plan which was at the consultation stage but maybe now at another stage and the new local plans are out now...really have lost track (which may have been the PLAN)
I think what sums it up is the new secondary school in St Andrews -they have been building one for 20+yrs -it is on 2 sites, 60% of 1400 children are bussed in, one site is in middle of town centre, the other site in a housing estate...buildings are crumbling.
All these plans etc and they still didn't have a site for a new school - they have found land to designate for 1200+ houses though.
Now they have a site ...the wrong side of the town for most of the children and it was recently designated as Green belt (which we don't normally have in Scotland) in one of the plans, it is next to a new hospital -which residents were told wouldn't set a precedence...
The land was agricultural land bought by a group on spec to build on -and now they will never get houses on it -so they are selling it to the council 'cheap' - only 10x what it is worth as agricultural land...
(And no plans for what will happen to the old school site in the estate -no doubt more housing -in addition to the land already allocated)
Not surprisingly the local residents are objecting ...and parents are frustrated that they are - but the council think the force of the parental support (desperate for a new school) will get it approved...
I would love a new school - but I can't find it in my heart to support it at that site...

Solopower1 Sat 25-May-13 11:34:56

Is it the developers that pay for the improvements in infrastructure though? I've often wondered that when I see huge road works appear as a new building goes up.

And what you say about social housing really annoys me! Look at the Quartermile development where the old Infirmary used to be. There's a big map on the fence where one building is called 'Affordable housing'. So what does that make the rest? And the spectacular old hospital has been largely pulled down for an ugly green glass and slate construction that costs the earth and ruins the skyline and the view of the castle.

Why oh why oh why.

Solopower1 Sat 25-May-13 11:37:12

And I hate that in a village the priority isn't for local young families and retirement homes. The old and the young are the people who contribute most to local communities, imo. People in their twenties to sixties are often too busy working to have time to join in with local stuff.

Solopower1 Sat 25-May-13 11:38:13

The thing about the school is that isn't it unwise to put one next to a hospital? Wasn't there a scare about Legionnaire's disease from the cooling towers?

Mumfun Wed 29-May-13 21:19:46

its all about money -and the councils grabbing as much as they can. And cosy relationships with developers. Money talks. And even if locals can get a good and justified campaign together and reduce/stop the development the developers come back again and again and again and appeal. Theyve just got something through near here that had been stopped for several years and appealed again and again - all that money is so hard to stand against

PatPig Thu 30-May-13 10:03:58

There is a shortage of housing, and while there is plenty of land, most of it is protected, hence nasty little rabbit hutches being built on undersized plots.

Nimbyism rules.

Solopower1 Sat 01-Jun-13 07:26:31

It's not that the land is porotected, it's that the developers buy it up but then sit on it, sometimes for years, until they judge the time is right to build on it. In other words they wait until they reckon they will get the best price for the houses before they build.

Meanwhile no-one else can have the land.

I am a NIMBY in that I feel my back yard is the whole of the UK. I don't want this to happen anywhere. People need homes, and good quality, affordable ones, and they need them now! But they also need a good quality of life that comes from being able to enjoy local beauty spots. The answer is to build on horrible urban wasteland and transform it into decent housing - and also for people not to buy up lots of houses (tax dodges/buy to let etc) and then leave them empty for years.

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