The City of Edinburgh Council is taking a focused and pro-active approach to the regeneration of a dozen strategic city centre development areas. In this article for SURF, Cllr Frank Ross explains the background to the ‘Edinburgh 12’ strategy and the anticipated benefits for employment, tourism, housing, sustainable growth and inward investment.
Edinburgh – Scotland’s capital. Boasting four of Scotland’s world-class universities; an enviable highly qualified workforce; and home to some of the UK’s most incredible startups. Edinburgh is a city which generates and attracts talent.
Add to this our stunning architecture, history, culture and world-renowned festivals and it is easy to see why Edinburgh is truly a fantastic place to live, work and visit. Indeed, this was enforced when Edinburgh recently received the accolade of best place to live in the UK.
This is not, however, to be taken for granted. We need to constantly review what the city offers to those wishing to work and invest here.
Three Objectives; Twelve Places
In 2013, a review of strategic gap sites in the city was undertaken as it was apparent that they had the potential to create opportunities for investment, growth and jobs.
This review led to the City of Edinburgh Council commissioning a report, the purpose of which was threefold: firstly to identify the most significant gaps sites in the capital’s city centre; secondly to ascertain the key to unlocking them; and thirdly, and most critically, establish the role which the Council could help play in moving them forward.
The authors of the report (three of the City’s top property agents) identified the following 12 sites as those in the city centre with the greatest economic impact which could also be delivered within the next five years. These development opportunities have now been branded as the Edinburgh 12:
- Dewar Place
- Donaldson’s College
- Edinburgh St James
- Former Royal High School
- India Buildings
- 8-20 King’s Stables Road
- New Waverley
- 3-8 St Andrew Square
- The Haymarket Edinburgh
The report further established that the successful delivery of these sites would bring enormous economic benefits, including:
- Gross Value Added in excess of £2.14 billion;
- Up to 20,000 FTE jobs and 28,000 construction jobs;
- Approximately 1706 hotel bedrooms;
- Approximately 1.3 million sq ft of ‘Grade A’ office space;
- Approximately 800,286 sq ft of retail and leisure space;
- Approximately 1590 residential units.
These statistics spoke for themselves and prompted us to take action.
By working hard to understand the needs the developer has of a local authority, we have been able to establish a flexible approach to the support we provide.
Indeed, this understanding and engagement with our stakeholders has resulted in the development of the Edinburgh Premium which is the name given to the Edinburgh 12’s package of services which in the near future will be available to developers though a single point of contact.
The Edinburgh Premium will ensure that support from all relevant Council services is available with clients being able to select what they need from a menu of options. Services will include, but not be limited to, employability & skills, planning, and sustainability.
It is through the Edinburgh Premium we will ensure that the development community is fully supported in a straightforward, transparent and efficient manner, ultimately ensuring the speedy delivery of projects and unlocking the benefits which new development brings.
Since the introduction of the Edinburgh 12, considerable progress has been made. The development of New Waverley is well underway; the planning application for Donaldson’s College has been submitted and is progressing; tunnel strengthening works are on schedule beneath the Haymarket Edinburgh development site. All of this progress is great news for the city.
As I mentioned earlier, creating employment opportunities is a key element of the Edinburgh 12, and the relationship between development and jobs is strong. As a Council, we recognise the need to work with developers and their contractors, particularly to understand their skills requirements during the construction phase of their project. We therefore work closely with our Joined up for Business partners to ensure that our priority groups, in particular our young people, have the relevant training to meet requirements and can benefit from the employment opportunities which are created.
With this in mind I had great pleasure in signing an Employability Accord with David Westwater, Development Director at Interserve (the developer behind the £200m Haymarket Edinburgh project) in 2014. It is my intention that we agree similar Accords with others as we move forward.
As a Council, engaging with our communities is the core part of what we do. The Edinburgh 12 presents us with an opportunity to engage with our neighbourhoods and invite our residents to get involved in shaping the places where they live.
The New Waverley site – the £150m development which will transform and breathe life into what had become a tired area of our city centre – is a great example of this. Collaboration between the Council and Artisan (the developer) has resulted in a fund of £200,000 being made available for physical improvements to the site and surrounding area.
The City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership has supported applications to this fund and I am delighted that there are now six projects being progressed, which include a community garden, a community arts projects and festive lighting in the Canongate.
As our current 12 sites progress attention is being turned to those which will follow, and considerable research and discussion is currently underway as we strive to identify sites which would be most suitable for this specialist and dedicated support.
The Edinburgh 12 has introduced a streamlined, trusted and forward-thinking approach to development and regeneration. I am confident that the support which the Council now offers through this initiative will play a significant part in supporting the delivery of some of our capital city’s most exciting projects, creating new jobs in the process and enhancing Edinburgh’s reputation as a great place to be.