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!