Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Activists call for Holyrood to intervene in capital row

Concerns about Edinburgh's World Heritage Status were raised by heritage bodies in the city when yesterday it was reported that the (new or revived) Caltongate scheme would require to go before the UN World Heritage committee.
The Scottish Government through Historic Scotland are required to protect World Heritage Sites and  therefore have a responsibility to ensure any revived development for the Waverley Valley takes due consideration of the recommendations made following UNESCO's visit in 2009.
The Scottish Government also have a responsibility to ensure Local government complies with legislation and policy and that best value is achieved for communities through public asset management. Will any of our representatives at Holyrood take up the challenge and question Edinburgh Council about so called benefits of flogging off much needed council housing on the cheep to developers who may demolish them with no guarantee of development?

Meanwhile Edinburgh Council provide 24hr security to 'protect' the gapsite



Today this article was published in the Glasgow Herald
by Brian Donally

"Members of the Canongate Community Forum, the area where the project is located, said Edinburgh City Council was wrong to approve the sale of land and buildings for £3.4M last month without further consultation.
Now the group plans to lobby Holyrood in an effort to prevent the sale. It includes nine flats for a total of £900,000, which the campaigners say is well below the normal market price.
One-bedroom flats in the area regularly fetch £150,000.
The sale will make way for a massive development in the medieval Old Town that will include a five-star hotel with 211 bedrooms, an 18,000sq ft conference centre, offices, shops, cafes and 165 new homes.
Resident and campaigner Julie Logan said there was strong opposition to demolishing a number of buildings at the Canongate to allow the develoment to go ahead.
She said: "The sale of these assets was approved just before Christmas, at a time when all of the interested groups did not have the time to put together formal objections.
"The issue is it was agreed to sell off the land without enough consultation or without providing any evidence this delivers best value in any kind of way for Edinburgh.
"There are groups who are deeply concerned about the proposals to demolish the buildings. We saw no need to rush this through. The flats have been empty for two years now and would need some work done, but they are not in great disrepair.
"The Scottish Government has got to play a role to ensure the best value is achieved."
The concern over the agreement of the sale of the assets to developers Artisan Real Estate Investors comes after The Herald revealed yesterday the entire project is to be scrutinised by Unesco after fresh fears it could jeopardise the city's World Heritage Site status.
Similar plans for the 640,000sq ft site previously prompted a UN mission to the capital that ended with Unesco telling then developers Mountgrange to redraw its plans or risk damaging the critical component of the accolade, the area's "outstanding universal value".
Director of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association said the council was "rushing this (sale) through at a very bad time to sell".
Artisan Real Estate Investors says it comprises a "powerful consortium of South African investors which is set to breathe new life into a project that has been dormant for more than a decade".
When first mooted, it was claimed the project could create 2000 jobs.
Artisan has taken over the project two years after the previous developer Mountgrange folded. Dave Anderson, head of city development, said the sale would help lead to more affordable housing for the area.
He said: "The capital receipt will be credited to the Housing Revenue Account and re-invested in the provision of affordable homes.
"In addition to the capital receipt, Artisan will transfer, free of value, a plot of land earmarked for the majority of the affordable housing on the consented scheme directly to the council. This plot of land has planning consent for 36 affordable housing units and will count towards the overall affordable housing requirement of the consented scheme.
"The commencement of the project has the potential to be a catalyst for Edinburgh's commercial property market and should encourage further overseas investors. The completed development will deliver much needed new commercial space to the city including offices, retail units and a five-star hotel."
Edinburgh Council security checking the gap site and Canongate Venture yesterday

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