Let’s Talk Pencil-Pusher: Lesson III—Disabling Envelopment (Third of a series, translating bureaucrat-speak into what it means for folk in East Lothian)
“Enabling Development” is a phrase used by planners in councils to allow things to be built they would not otherwise allow in order to get other priority projects done. It has a bad history in ELC; 85 houses at Archerfield got the House restored (magnificently) but not the landmark hotel that was part of the deal.
Another example is Victory Lane—that steel skeleton on the left as you leave Wallyford station. A deal struck in 2002 between the previous ELC administration and a developer called Sirius was to replace Wallyford’s demolished dog track and build 200 houses nearby. A third area reserved for offices had parking available to the track after hours.
The deal required all stadium steelwork up and services laid to the offices site before any houses could be sold. Sirius did build the steelwork (but ignored the offices), then built and sold all of the houses they could while arguing with ELC they had no money to finish the rest. The houses were occupied, the offices stayed a field and the steel stood rusting.
After almost five years, sustained lobbying of the (new) ELC administration claimed that, if another 94 houses were built on the offices area, the stadium might get finished. An application for this was lodged while a charm offensive on local civic groups undertaken. A slick 40-page Consultation Document from Geddes Consulting claimed everyone wanted the stadium and housing; nobody wanted offices.
For brass neck (considering Sirius had defaulted on promises near the start) both application and the document deserve medals. But the sheer genius of the move was to imply that funds from housing could finish the stadium. But the key phrase ‘enabling development’ had disappeared: Sirius was expecting the council to sign up for another 94 houses (on top of the 200 built and 1,000 more planned) for Wallyford with not one business space to work in.
Almost worked, too. At Feb 22nd’s ELC meeting, eight councillors, including the entire Labour group, swallowed Sirius’ pitch, as if approval wasn’t just letting Sirius build 94 more houses and disappear, laughing. Thankfully, we had 12 other councillors awake and knowing the difference between ‘enabling development’ and ‘disabling envelopment’ (a close but more rapacious relative that developers prefer—if you allow them).