Sunday, 23 March 2014

Not Forgotton but LOST

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.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Hideous The new design standard for Edinburgh

The Caltongate plans were approved at the Planning Committee after being branded Hideous by local Councillor Joanna Mowett as she voted for approval.

The decision has sparked continued debate about the standards of planning in the World Heritage Site and the competance of Edinburghs planning service. Critics have complained that councillors were not provided with all the details.

The Caltongate scheme remains surrounded by controversy and scandal. 
Objectors are now considering further avenues available to them to challenge the decision.

The realities of actually developing the Cursed Caltongate plans proved the downfall of Mountgrange, forcing them into administration as banks and investors branded the scheme toxic.

Will the curse of the Caltongate plans result in the collapse of Artisan too?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Raise the banners

The Caltongate petition has illustrated the widespread opposition to the revised plans. 
Show your support for the Old Town community
and gather with
Objectors to the Caltongate Plans outside the 
City Chambers, High Street
 from 9.15am on Wednesday 29th

The planning meeting starts at 10am and is open to the public
but WILL NOT be webcast
Planners have recommended approval despite significant objections
but it will be for Edinburgh Councillors to decide.
To witness Councillors consider these controversial applications you will need to attend

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Decision Time for Councillors

The revised but not so different Caltongate is due to be considered this week at a Planning Hearing where developers and planners will argue to 'fill the gap' in Edinburgh's City centre with hotel and office developments.


A fellow SOOT supporter & ex-Old Town Community Councillor this week submitted a 
which will be presented to the Planning Committee on 29th Jan.


 The 'new' plans retain the massive public square and office developments on the gapsite, and both the council planners and Artisan (the developers) have consistently refused to consider appeals from architects, urbanists, heritage and community experts to rethink the scheme to address the chronic shortage of housing in the Old Town resulting from the over-development of hotels and student accommodation in the area. 

Councillors and commercial interests claim its essential to get the site moving (at any cost?) and say
"there is no alternative" or "if you dont approve it they will build the old scheme"

Over the last couple of years numerous alternatives have been suggested to council planning and community engagement teams at consultation events and neighbourhood meetings, however council officers have refused or sidelined requests from numerous community and arts groups to use or develop the council owned land or buildings because...
...the developers/administrators/someone else controls the site might reduce the land value set by the Caltongate scheme makes the site too difficult for developers to market
...the buildings are dangerous too dangerous for public access
.............and so on!

sketch by local Artist Chris Rutterford
  " This area could provide a really vibrant mixing pot for council, parliament and a creative community to mix effectively. I did some diagrams a while back, the charity who run my studio wanted to help make that happen." said Chris Rutterford.

 Numerous organisations and developers have shown interest in developing this site in a more sustainable way
from WordBank, Remade in Edinburgh and others looking at regenerating existing buildings for social enterprise to housebuilders and housing associations keen to provide new
However none of these proposals have been given any consideration as senior officers in City Development and Mountgrange's administrators Deloitte  agreed to promote an exclusive off market offer to revive the failed Caltongate scheme and so further sterilise the site.

photo from

 When these latest applications were submitted, The Old Town Community Council requested extra time/consultation on the plans and additional up to date information on the mix of uses, traffic arrangements and significant impacts of this development but received no support from planning.

 Many folks missed the short timescale (standard 21day) to object as the applications included vast amounts of documents and were very difficult to access however hundreds expressed their opposition on social media once the applications were publicised in the press the day AFTER consultation had closed. 

 However, having completely ignored objections and consultation responses, planners recommend APPROVAL of the new plans which allow for 2 additional budget hotels with Premier Inn on East Market Street (presently occupied by the old vegetable/common good market building and previously proposed for offices and a block of affordable housing) The developer claims this "will be the cornerstone of a quality development".
Clearly not the same as previous developer Mountgrange's boasts of 5*hotels then!

Whilst the planners may consider the hundreds of objections as non material because they did not submit them formally through the planning process it is hoped that 
councillors must give serious consideration to such public opposition.


this will be presented to the Planning Committee on 29th Jan.

You can also WRITE TO COUNCILLORS  directly!  

Surely its time for Councillors to step up and vote to refuse these mediocre plans and work with the community to aspire to something exemplar for this World Heritage site and promote a plan which demonstrates commitment to new policies on sustainable development, cooperative council and community planning.

find Councillor details here
Councillors on Planning Committee here

Many councillors are now also on twitter too!

Thursday, 3 October 2013


The new Caltongate proposals have been slammed by heritage groups for the inappropriate designs submitted by Allan Murray Architects.
Today's Scotsman article titled 

Caltongate will become 'Nowheresville'

details criticism of the plans from heritage bodies 
The Cockburn Association and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

The Cockburn Association published their response to the applications earlier this week on their website HERE

Unfortunately the period for submitting comments/objections on the councils website has now closed but details of the applications and supporting documents are still available to view on their PORTAL
You can still write to the Head of Planning, the planning officers and your councillors raising concerns about the Caltongate proposals however they will declare your objections as being 'late'!

Its clear from recent comments on social media about the Caltongate site that many feel it is an area in need of development but that these plans are not nearly good enough for this important site and the speculative nature in no way provides reassurance that development on the ground will happen. The focus is on 'development uplift' and maintaining inflated land values for overseas investors.

The Council have sat back for 5years allowing the deterioration of publicly owned buildings (which  community groups have repeatedly requested for use) through deliberate neglect by the previous developers Mountgrange and then Deloitte (administrators to the failed Mountgrange Caltongate company). 
In 2010 the land sale to Mountgrange for Caltongate was reported as ILLEGAL 
However in December 2011 Dave Anderson, as Head of City Development, recommended the council agree to a new off market offer for developers Artisan to acquire the public land and buildings (East Market St) at very favourable terms so they could deliver the approved but FAILED scheme. 

A variety of community organisations had undertaken important research on the heritage of the area were already developing proposals for community led regeneration projects in the area, which would see the reuse of listed buildings and provision of much needed local services and facilities. The sale was highly criticised for being rushed at the time by all opposition parties to the then administration (Lib/SNP) but was voted through by a very slim majority only months before the Local council elections which saw many of its supporters loose their seats.

How will the new 'cooperative council' deliver community planning, democratic decision making  and sustainable development to the Canongate while continuing to put the control of valuable public assets and land in the hands of overseas investors who are not accountable to the community?

Saturday, 28 September 2013


This weekend Edinburgh celebrates Doors Open days with buildings of architectural and cultural importance being opened for free public access across the city.
One building proposed for inclusion was Canongate Venture but the doors remain furmly SHUT as City of Edinburgh Council officials deem it TOO DANGEROUS to enter!

Despite it being used over the summer for the Edinburgh Art Festival.

Could it be because there are only days left to object to the new Caltongate plans?

 Should this building be altered to create a huge bar/cafe and confrence suite

Instead of being able to judge the value of this beautiful building from your own experiences of visiting it you will have to rely on the hundreds of documents produced for the planning applications

This building is over 100years Old and still solid and functional (although in need of a bit of TLC) and in great demand by local groups who wish to see it returned to the community for repair and reuse. The Canongate Venture playground is needed by the community for playspace and community gardens but the plans will see it developed over for another hotel!

How to guidance on previous posts.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

New Caltongate Plans

For those of you still struggling to view plans of the new proposals here are some images produced by the development team to demonstrate the 'quality' of design and 'placemaking' however they do more to illustrate 
what's wrong with the plans!

First up The new Ark hotel from New St

the hotel will retain the Canongate fa├žade of the Ark but will rebuild the whole plot for hotel use including the 18 homes which have been left vacant for over 5 years, and create a huge hole for pedestrian (?) access.

The back of the hotel will have another entrance from the new public (but privately owned and managed) square and is a large bland 6 storey block overshadowing the new public square. World (heritage) class hotel or poor design?

18 homes will be lost (half of which are council stock) No housing (either replacement or new) will be included in the Southern Site any more as the developers claim suitable and sufficient housing is already approved elsewhere.

The private housing and social housing that developers refer to in the plans are NOT part of the new applications. There is no guarantee they will ever be delivered and they cannot be 'claimed' as benefits of the applications now being considered.

approved private housing block
private housing courtyard
Social housing at Calton Road
The private housing approved lies to the east of the public square will have a courtyard with shops and bars. Social housing is approved for 1 and 2 bed only with no amenities at Calton Road. 

Back to what the plans DO include!

Canongate Venture is no longer proposed for total demolition but plans indicate the redevelopment of this building will include some demolitions and is proposed for licensed and conference uses with new glass box extensions to the front and rear. Is this really the best design they can imagine?

Canongate Venture with hotel development over playground
No community/workshop/affordable business use is included to replace that lost in Canongate Venture.

Cranston St will no longer be realigned but the common good land and Canongate Venture playground will now be developed for 2 x 6 story hotels

This common good land is home to an old market building in council use as a garage and was previously approved for offices AND a small social housing development.

The new plans for the Arches on Jeffrey St will cover them up with a Glass wall providing unspecified 'leisure' uses with bars restaurants and cafes. 

Although the building does not extend above Jeffrey St and provides a 'viewing platform' and kiosk cafe at street level this part of the development will result in the loss of usable public space on Cranston Street which is sheltered sunny and animated with trees and obscure the Listed arches and elegant curve of the street.

The impact of all these developments on the character, quality and authenticity of the World Heritage site is significant and hugely damaging and will be seen form all angles. The scale of the changes can clearly be seen from Calton Hill!


Log on to Edinburgh Council website to comment


or write to
David Leslie (Head of Planning) and Jennifer Paton (Case Officer)
City of Edinburgh Council
Waverley Court
East Market St

or email AND


Planning Service
City of Edinburgh Council
Waverley Court,
East Market St

Dear Sirs

I wish to lodge an objection to Planning Application 13/03407/FUL and the associated Listed building and demolition applications which relate to this Major Planning Application Site and seek consent for

Redevelopment, demolitions and erection of new buildings for mixed commercial uses and hotels
at (Caltongate) Southern Site, Canongate/New Street, East Market St and Cranston St

My reasons for objecting are; 

The proposed demolitions and partial demolitions do not comply with current Local and National environmental, heritage and sustainability policies, including Edinburgh Local Plan Environment Policies Env 1, Env 2, Env 3, Env 4, Env 5, Env 6, and Env 12.

The proposed developments are of a design standard that does not reflect or respect the historic location and do not comply with Edinburgh Local Plan Design Policies Des1, Des 3 and Des 6. 

The planned uses are not clear and the development will encourage increased antisocial behaviour, noise and nuscience to existing city centre residents which is not controlled through good planning.

The plans do not adress the needs or desires of the local community and will not provide for the long term sustainable regeneration of the city.

There is not development viability provided, the plans are purely speculative

The proposed 'public' square will remain in private ownership and management, and as such does not improve the public realm.
The mix of uses as proposed will increase the excessive existing traffic and servicing pressures in the local area, causing unacceptable noise and pollution.
The design is ugly and uses too much glass
The housing to be demolished should be replaced within the Southern Site

REMEMBER use your own words/experience/opinions in your letter

Design, traffic impact, architectural quality, pollution, sustainability, employment and business opportunities, community facilities,the mix of uses and the impact on residents and other users are all MATERIAL issues for planning and can be included.

(we have now been advised the consultation WILL close on 1st OCTOBER)

It is a good idea to keep a copy of your objection and to copy your letter to your local councillors and MSP's  This is a historic site on their doorstep, it lies between  Parliament and the City Chambers and should demonstrate that new policies on placemaking and sustainability are viable and achievable.

You can find details of your elected representatives here

Monday, 23 September 2013

New Caltongate Plans - comment NOW!

After alot of time pouring through hundreds of documents we can now reveal some images of the new plans for the Caltongate Site at Canongate/ East Market St.

The developers Artisan have made big issue of having responded to previous objections and creating a more sympathetic and viable development so it is a great disappointment to see  
another bland scheme presented which is focused on providing more tourist accommodation
 (hotels) with lots of provision for bars/cafes and restaurants to provide 'night-time' activity.

East Market St/Arches before and after development

The new planning application for the 'Southern Site' covers the publicly owned Arches, Common Good land and Canongate Venture,as well as The Ark and neighbouring McRae tenements on the Royal Mile (half of which are council flats)
Planning Application 13/03407/FUL  for the Demolition, Redevelopment and Erection of buildings for mixed use development comprises
  • A Hotel over Ark and Royal Mile tenaments with double height pend, cafes/bar and commercial use at ground/mezzaine levels retaining rubble facade but no housing on the Mile.
  • Removal of Railings,playground,terrace and basement to Canongate Venture and erection of a smaller glass extension with roof terrace on East Market St and a glass extension to rear of CanongateVenture (plans indicate the ground floor to become a huge open plan cafe/bar/resturant with conference facilities on the upper floor).
  • 2 x 6 story hotels with commercial uses on East Market St over the Common Good market and CanongteVenture playground. 
  • A Glass fronted 2 story 'leisure' complex to be built over the open space beside the Arches and conversion of the Arches to Retail and Cafe/bar/resturant uses.

Hotel developments over Common Good Market and Canongate Venture playground
 NO housing to be included in this site any more, even the previous approved plan included some housing (8 flats on Common Good land and a number of Royal Mile flats retained). The focus is on providing 3 Hotels.

The plans are uninspired bland architecture and there appears to be unspecified uses for all the buildings proposed, They include lots of possible uses - hotel, club, restaurant, retail, bar. cafe, leisure, office etc - but do not define the balance or what goes where. This makes assessing the impact of the development and the traffic/servicing impossible!

The fear for many is this development will result in the destruction of this unique historic Market Street to become yet another drinking destination for Stag and Hens.
 Recent news of an operator looking to develop a 'pod' hotel for this purpose demonstrates these fears are a real possibility.

If you care what happens to your city centre then now is the time to OBJECT

 You can still comment on this Major Application
 for the development of the Southern Site on the Edinburgh Council
 Planning Portal using the Reference  13/03407/FUL.

Objections need to be submitted 

Remember to ensure your objections are considered 'Material'

If you cannot use the planning portal, objections can be submitted by email or handed in (make sure you include the reference number) to

Jennifer Paton (case officer) 
Planning Service
City of Edinburgh Council
Waverley Court
East Market St

(usually a good idea to get a receipt) 
 Email planning contacts: (general help desk)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Community Mapping in the Old Town

Community mapping is becoming recognised as a valuable tool for community engagement. SOOT first undertook a community mapping exercise as part of the action research project in 2008 and found it a really useful tool in encouraging members of the community to express their views on the local environment, identifying problems and well loved places.

The full report, including details of community mapping and other activities and research undertaken for the Canongate Project Report can be found here

Here are a couple of examples of maps produced during the Canongate Project

Its encouraging to see other organisations now also undertaking mapping exercises as a way to get a better understanding of the area and allow participants to engage more fully in consultations about the city's environment.
Edinburgh World Heritage Trust have recently undertaken a community mapping exercise as part of their Green Heritage Project and hope to present their results this summer.

Last weekend as part of the ongoing consultation on the Royal Mile Project, CEC undertook some Community Mapping as part of the activities for engagement. 

The Royal Mile team will continue with this mapping exercise visiting children from the local Primary schools and the maps are informing local street artists who are developing a new piece of work on the New Street boards .

It is hoped that this kind of engagement will lead to improvements to the Canongate, High Street and Lawnmarket which benefit locals and visitors and restore some of the variety of shops and livability of areas of the Royal Mile
In the meantime, here are some more examples of the maps produced during the Canongate Project.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Royal Mile Action

Latest consultation news......
The Council are considering changes to traffic management on the Royal Mile and are asking for your views.
A number of workshops and events will be held over the coming weeks to discuss progress on the Royal Mile Action Plan which was started last year following a Charette at the Hub in January 2012

Since then action has been limited to improving the tourist offering by employing a Royal Mile Manager Sarah Cooke who has assisted in the establishment of the Royal Mile Business Association.

The next step is to look at improving the pedestrian environment around the Mile and traffic management. Hopefully consideration over the mix of uses will also be looked at along side waste management, street clutter and how traffic changes fit with other diversions around the city centre.

On Saturday the Community Engagement Day will include opportunities for anyone of any age with an interest or love of the Old Town (including residents past and present) to contribute their story's to the timeline, participate in community mapping, guided walks and graffiti art and help guide action to improve this Historic Street for all who live in and visit it.