Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Back to the drawing board

The SOOT space has been quiet for the last year as supporters have tried to get on with new projects and support a number of emerging community organisations. The election of a new cooperative coalition council in May promised a new approach to decision making and the hope that communities would be listened to.

Since the summer we have seen the creation of a new, legal,space for street art around the New St Gap site, with the hoardings on New St and Calton Road becoming a canvas for many Scottish artists to practice and collaborate, aswell as creating a new attraction for tourists and artists to visit for inspiration.

New St (August 2012)
 The work is constantly evolving and the site has played host to a number of Graff Jams which artists from across the UK (and some from Europe) have contributed. This return of creatives to the gap site has been welcomed by many residents, local businesses and council departments.
New St (November 2112)
 However, the listed buildings and homes which were blighted by Mountgrange's Caltongate Development remain empty and with no prospect of even temporary uses being agreed by their owners (either new developers Artisan REI or the Council) they will begin to seriously deteriorate through continued neglect.

A new conservation report has been undertaken by Old Town Development Trust, which they commissioned to look at potential reuse of  Canongate Venture, makes it clear that this Listed Building has more than just local importance. This report and the Trusts proposal to develop the Word Bank demonstrates the huge potential for its reuse to create much needed community and affordable business space.

Artisan REI who acquired the bus depot site from the administrators of the failed Caltongate scheme have been doing the rounds since the summer with informal meetings to discuss community concerns over the previous scheme.
Their agreement to allow the development of a 'legal wall' for street art, and their application for consent to allow the return of Snoozebox to the gapsite for Hogmanay and Festival 2013 gave encouragement to many in the community who had hoped that community consultation over temporary uses and revised plans for the site would this time be a more cooperative and constructive process.
However their use of the same team as Mountgrange (GVA Grimley and Allan Murray Architects) has led to fears that the same old tricks of misinformation and secret deals behind the scenes are taking place.

A 'community consultation' event was eventually held in Canongate Venture by GVA Grimley in November 2012 where the public were invited to comment on possible revisions to the plans, on the promise that feedback AND a second event would take place BEFORE any plans were submitted. However the feedback report has been split into 2 reports, the Southern Site, and the Section 42 applications

The second event is still to be scheduled yet plans to renew ALL the Mountgrange consents (due to lapse in October this year) have now been submitted which, if approved, will allow Artisan REI  a further 3 years to enact the demolitions and develop the Caltongate plans.
The section 42 planning applications are now live on the planning portal although the necessary relevant information is very difficult to find. We hope to provide more detailed information about the applications and how to comment on them soon.