Saturday, 23 February 2013

Time to speak out

Yesterday a new plan for the Royal Mile was unveiled which is due to go out to consultation following presentation to the Planning Committee, on 28th February, alongside the latest report on Southern Arc Development Framework.
The Old Town Community Council have organised a public meeting on MONDAY 11th March to discuss democracy, development and the decline of the Old Town as a residential community.

How do you think things can improve? Come along and have your say on recent consultations, plans and proposals for the city centre.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Edinburgh in Decline

This week Edinburgh's record of urban regeneration was the subject of attention by Professor Richard J Williams of Edinburgh University.
Disguised as a piece on why Scotland can't be a country, this article in Foreign Policy, describes the failings of the city to plan and adhere to their own policies to develop a sustainable modern city and concludes
"Before Scotland can be a country, its capital needs to get its house in order."

Whilst the article does not contribute much to the debate over the real issues for independence, the need to get the capitals house in order is now essential for the future of its inhabitants, regardless of whether Scotland votes Yes or No in 2014.

Open and transparent systems, meaningful consultation and aspirational design are all needed to improve the urban fabric of the city and support the communities who occupy it.
This can be achieved if there is genuine consultation as described in the Scottish Government's Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill 
However if the Council continue to ignore views from communities and allow private interests to dictate public policy and procedures, the corruption and malaise of speculative urban development will continue to destroy the unique attributes of this beautiful City.

The recent consultation exercise conducted for the revived Caltongate plans are a perfect example of lessons not learned.
A consultation exercise was carried out which the public tried to engage in, despite it having been made as difficult as possible by the developers planning agents.
An exhibition and stakeholders workshop were held in November/December to 'consult' with the community and seek their views on new plans to be drafted. However before completing this consultation exercise  multiple complex applications to renew ALL the failed plans (with no real planning justification provided) were submitted.
Details of the new plans being drafted and feedback from the pre-application consultation exercises were kept 'under wraps' until after the very limited time period to comment on these planning applications for renewal had ended. This demonstrates the usual tick box procedures were employed and a truly disingenuous approach to community consultation.

It should come as no real surprise that the results of the Stakeholder Workshop clearly demonstrate the stakeholders desire to see major changes to the scheme, greater community involvement in the regeneration of the area and the need to develop a new plan for the area. NOT to simply renew consents for the failed scheme to 'protect the commercial interests of the developer'.

To date the new plans remain secret, however the Stakeholder Report has now finally been published. Although it is almost impossible to find on the planning portal you can download it easily  HERE

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Mountgrange Architect critic of Caltongate demolitions

 Shortly before developers Artisan offered to buy up East Market St in December 2011, one of the Architects involved in a particularly controversial part of the scheme was heard speaking out against the demolitions and highlighting the value of this site. The need for new plans and the value of the councils assets in Caltongate are explained by Malcom Fraser in his after dark debate at the Urban Room

Unfortunately the last administration saw fit to give this valuable public land to Artisan who now wish to extend the life of the failed consents!

The Planning department have now confirmed that the consultation period/planning portal for the Caltongate renewal plans WILL close tomorrow,Friday 8th.
We expect that means midnight but you can also send an email or letter which provided it is received on Friday must be considered.

So you only have a day left to OBJECT

Some of us have been finding it very difficult and time consuming using the portal to address all the issues to all the applications and instead chose to write one letter which applies to all the applications. If you too are finding it hard here is template letter which may help.

Please personalise copy/cut and paste/ print and use whatever bits you agree with to make your own letter (make sure to date it and include your name and address) which you can then 

deliver to the planning desk at Waverley court
or email to
East Market Street Party 2006 before Caltongate was approved

David Leslie
Head of Planning and Building Standards
City of Edinburgh Council
Waverley Court
East Market St

(Please copy to planning case officers Daniel Lodge and Jennifer Paton)

I wish to lodge an OBJECTION to Planning applications
Refs; 13/00096/FUL, 13/00090/FUL, 13/00095/FUL, 13/00088/FUL, 13/00094/FUL, 13/00085/FUL, 13/00107/LBC, 13/00102/LBC, 13/00093/FUL, 13/00092/FUL, 13/00103/FUL, 13/00106/FUL, 13/00101/LBC, 13/00091/FUL, 13/00100/LBC

for the 'Caltongate Development Site', - Canongate, East Market St, Cranston St, Jeffrey St, New St and Calton Road.

All the original objections submitted by heritage and community groups to all the original applications (now subject of applications seeking consent to vary conditions) are still valid.

The original plans were speculative and the economic benefits presented as justifications for these applications, are 5 years old and clearly no longer valid or credible.

The demolitions are unsustainable, unjustified and not supported by new National planning guidance SHEP.
The application should include an updated Environmental Impact Assessment

All the proposed developments are of a quality, style and layout which will cause significant damage to the local environment, residential amenity, key views and skylines, heritage value of the conservation area, and the authenticity of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site.

The plans conflict with local and national policies on sustainable development, community empowerment and climate change.

The developer has stated the justification for applications is commercial because 'The expiry of consents may devalue the site”
THIS IS NOT A MATERIAL PLANNING CONSIDERATION and therefore cannot be used as a justification to breach conservation and planning policy by developers, just as it cannot be used as a reason for objections.

The existing plans should be allowed to lapse and these applications REFUSED as they may prejudice the development of new improved plans and development opportunities coming forward.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How to Object!

There is only 4 days left to comment on all 15 applications (the 21 day consultation period ends on Friday 8th Feb)
Objections can be made online through the planning portal by registering (and log in) then using these reference numbers to access the relevant applications.

Hotel and conference centre

Canongate Venture

The Hotel and demolition of Canongate Venture, the Ark and Canongate flats
  1. Renewal of demolition consent for Canongate Venture 13/00100/LBC
  2. Renewal of planning consent for demolition of 2 listed buildings, 18 flats and 2 shops to provide for a 5* Hotel and conference centre (PA5) 13/00091/FUL
  3. Renewal of demolition consent for The Old Sailors Ark, 231 Canongate 13/00101/LBC
  4. Renewal of demolition consent for McRae tenements, 221 -229 Canongate 13/00106/FUL
  5. Renewal of demolition consent for Common Good Market building 13/00103/FUL

    Common Good Land and Jeffrey St Arches 
  6. Renewal of planning consent for demolition of Common Good Market building to erect 5 storey office block on East Market St (PA6) 13/00092/FUL
  7. Renewal of planning consent to redevelop Arches and erect 6 storey offices on Cranston St and 4storey building on East Market St for leisure, bar, restaurant uses (The Malcom Fraser block PA7) 13/00093/FUL
  8. Renewal of Listed Building consent to refurbish Arches and erect 4 storey block for retail/bar/returant/offices (PA7) and realign Cranston St 13/00102/LBC
  9. Renewal of Listed Building Consent to allow alterations to north gable wall of Cranston St/Jeffrey St tenements (link to PA7) 13/00107/LBC

    The Malcom Fraser block

    The Podium and office block
  10. Renewal of consent to erect Podium structure (foundations and underground car park for offices and private housing) on New st Gap site (PA2) 13/00085/FUL
  11. Consent to vary conditions to Podium consent to allow early implementation in advance of submitting details on archaeology, boundary treatments and footways (PA2) 13/00094/FUL
  12. Renewal of planning consent to erect Office block on gap site which will also house carparking and district heating system (PA3) 13/00088/FUL
  13. Consent to vary conditions to allow early implementation of development, in advance of submitting information on the proposed sustainability management system, archaeology and footway required for the office block (PA3) 13/00095/FUL

    new residential street

    Luxury flats and Canongate breakthrough 
  14. Renewal of consent to erect mixed private housing blocks along eastern edge of the site serviced by car parking and district heating from Podium. Includes, additional offices, bars, restaurants and retail units, a Public Square behind the hotel and demolition of existing flats on Canongate (PA4a) 13/00090/FUL
  15. Consent to vary conditions on private housing (PA4a) to allow early implementation, in advance of submitting details on sustainable management, archaeology, boundary treatments and construction details 13/00096/FUL
To comment by post or email, please write to the addresses below ensuring you include the following:
  • The date
  • The name and address of the sender
  • The reference number (or numbers) of the application(s)
  • The address of the site (Caltongate Development site or East market St/New St)
  • Your comments/ grounds for objection
David Leslie ( Head of Planning and Building Standards, Services for Communities, Level C5, Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8B

Make sure you keep a record of your submissions and copy it to the planning officers ( and and send details of your objections to your local councillors/MSPs.

Some possible reasons to object -
you think the planning consents should lapse because the plans are now out of date with the most recent heritage, planning for sustainable development, and national placemaking policies.
you think the economic benefits proposed by the Mountgrange scheme are no longer valid and a reasonable justification to demolish 2 Listed buildings 18 structurally sound and much needed homes and publicly owned buildings which can provide much needed affordable business space, has not been presented.
you believe the consents should lapse as the new developer has expressed concern that they are no longer viable and extending the life of these consents may prejudice new more sustainable and viable plans being progressed and implemented.
you believe the original objections made on grounds of unsustainable development which is out of step with planning guidence still apply as the development will seriously damage the historic, economic and cultural environment, yet the case for demolition is no longer valid
you believe the proposed development has been proven to be no longer a credable plan for regeneration and the sale of public land to facilitate the development will not achieve best value for the site or good placemaking for the City.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Time is running out!

Caltongate Hotel on Canongate
The Mountgrange Caltongate planning consents will be 5 years old this year and the planning case supporting the development is now completely out of date having been written back in 2007 when things were very different. By 2010 even the council recognised the financial failings of the scheme and took back the land.

New office block Mountgrange style

Which makes the latest deal with new developers Artisan even more questionable!
This time round the council are willing to hand over Common Good Land, publicly owned and needed buildings and homes for even less money, no profit share and on the promise that existing planning consents can be extended to increase the speculative value of the land for the sole benefit of the developer (who can then land bank, demolish, replan, go bust or sell on without undertaking any new development).

East Market St Mountgrange Style

Whilst the new developers prepare for continued 'meaningful consultation' about a revised plan for the East Market St and New St/Canongate area, the rubber stamps are at the ready to extend the life of the old Mountgrange plans.
  • Surely these old plans need reconsidered against up to date information, at the very least a new economic and environmental appraisal is needed to justify demolition of listed buildings?
  • Do the planning department have all the relevant information and if so why is it not available to the public? 
  • Why has the report from the 'stakeholders workshop', conducted by an independent facilitator for Artisan and City of Edinburgh Council not been released yet (not even to those who participated) or included in the current applications as part of the pre application consultation evidence?
Yet the planning agents GVA Grimley have only provided extracts from their old Mountgrange reports (2007) as justification to approve the Section 42 applications for renewal of the hotel consent (which requires the demolition of 2 Listed buildings).

These significant and interdependent plans, which are all dependant on the demolition of listed buildings and much needed housing for the city centre are being rushed through the consultation process as if they were minor amendments to a house extension!

An updated economic and environmental impact study is required, particularly as one of the key elements to ensure 'sustainability' in the Mountgrange plans was the district heating/ground source system which has now been shelved.
A new case must be presented to justify the demolition of listed and unlisted buildings, in line with new Historic Scotland planning guidance (SHEP) and which takes account of the recent conservation, structural and feasibility studies into the importance and potential reuse of Canongate Venture.
The consultation period must therefore be extended to allow the public to comment on these core issues