Thursday, 8 March 2012

Artisan Investors planning more of the same?

Last week it was reported that new developers Artisan Investors had been bombarded with offers for the development of a 5* hotel at the failed Caltongate site despite reports to the contrary that only a couple of  hotel operators were seriously interested in financing the demolition of historic buildings to construct a hotel next to a huge gapsite.

The developers have as yet not revealed who they are engaging to undertake the management of the development and redesigning of the plans, however today Allan Murray was spotted giving the Investors a guided tour of the site. Has he got his old job back or just offering some free advice?

Many community and heritage organisations have called on the council to encourage the new developers to revise the masterplan for the area and find a more sustainable way forward that complies with new planning policy and frameworks for the area, and have sought to meet with the developers before any decisions are made. However,  it was  reported this week that Councillor Jim Lowrey, convener of the Planning Committee did not wish to see the developer 'inhibited' by recommendations in the UNESCO report and that the hotel must be located on the Royal Mile! This 'planning' advice from the convener fails to take account of the advice from members of AD&S, the Academy of Urbanism and many other professional bodies who acknowledge the failures of the Caltongate plans in being able to meet the new standards of placemaking and economic resilience.

This obsession with locating the Hotel in such a way as to require the demolition of 2 listed buildings and 18 homes was promoted by Allan Murray as the key justification for vandalising the World Heritage Site. The layout could easily be amended to allow a greater mix of sympathetic uses (including a hotel with a frontage to the Royal Mile) without requiring further demolitions.

Perhaps if the investors widen their net and consider using a different architectural approach than that of Mr Murray, one which uses the historic environment as an opportunity not an obstacle, a truly inspiring and successful development can evolve. Lets hope the Investors will allow some serious community engagement before finalising their plans this time.

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