At the end of this month The Jeffrey St Arches will finally be reused and open to the public when Hidden Door host a 9 day multi arts festival .
The Arches form one of the most controversial part of the Artisan Land deal with Edinburgh Council. They were previously used as garages and stores for a variety of council/festival and events/community groups but have been left vacant since the original Caltongate deal was struck with Mountgrange.
For years now community groups and social enterprises have called on the council to allow use to meet local needs for workshops/studios/storage/recycling and community events.
The Arches are presently owned by Edinburgh Council but Artisan have been offered them on a peppercorn rent for OVER 100years as part of the Caltongate land deal (which also includes council flats on the Canongate to be demolished).
It is claimed that the Arches will be handed over to Artisan after Hidden Door festival for development to start on the approved plans soon, however new questions have been raised about who exactly is Artisan and what capital have they got following an article in Scottish Review which recently exposed them for failing to pay the rates for over 2 years on the existing buildings which they do own.
Although the controversial planning applications for Caltongate (Mark II) were approved back in January, concerns about the scheme and the shocking conduct of council's planning process have continued to be expressed in the media and on other campaign blogs.
Since the decision, a new petition has been raised on 38 degrees calling for No Confidence in CEC Planning. As many see Caltongate as just one example of a bigger problem - how the planning system is failing to respond to or represent citizens in Edinburgh - this petition has significant support from across the city and has prompted severe criticism of CEC from many quarters including some well known authors.
The sad situation in Edinburgh is that some senior planners are clearly driving the Planning Committee to make decisions that suit their council bosses in Economic Development and which keeps their own life simple. To them, planning applications are merely a tool used to advertise and market a site for sale and resale rather than part of a statutory process to manage local development and administer public policy.
Its time for Edinburgh's citizens to demand better and defend the Old Town and other city sites from the endless onslaught of tourist based economic development which threatens the very nature of historic places.
The Hidden Door Festival provides an opportunity to explore the real value of this site and prove that this is not some surplus land or public liability for the council to dispose of for pennies to unknown investors, but a valuable and flexible community asset which can be better managed to provide long term benefits to the community and the City for future generations.