Please Write in Today and Share this Post to Support Our MSPs in demand for Call-In: #Craighouse Call-In

craighouseandtreeOur MSPs Alison Johnstone and Jim Eadie have written to Planning Minister Derek Mackay asking for the Craighouse application to be called in. The community is right behind them and greatly support our MSPs in this.

PLEASE write to minister Derek Mackay either through Jim and Alison or copied to them asking for Craighouse to be called in. A simple letter can be put in outlining some of the following issues in your own words. Please use your own words and say what you feel – there is more detail at the link at the bottom of this post for those that want to write something more detailed. (See below for how to write in)

Craighouse is a site of National Importance with Grade-A listed buildings in their nationally protected setting. This case sets a very undesirable precedent across the whole of Scotland. The Enabling Case was unproven and not properly assessed. There were many things wrong with the way it was presented, considered and assessed by the planning department and by the planning committee.

The decision was made against the objections of 2MSPs, MP, 6 local Councillors, 7 Community Councils, the Cockburn Association, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, the Friends of Craighouse and many other groups and organisations. It was objected to by thousands of members of the public who wrote in to the planning department – the largest amount of objections ever received by Edinburgh planning department for a single application.

The planning report was reported to be one of “the most damning” ever seen by our local MP with experts at the hearing pointing out that the words”detriment” and “detrimental” had been used 51 times in the planning report. The report admitted that the development – 172,000sq ft of newbuild plus associated carparking (more than all the listed buildings put together!) – damaged the settings of every single listed building on the site, against both local and national policy. It said that it would cause “significant detriment to the AGLV” (Area of Great Landscape Value) and contravened many Local Plan policies as well as diminishing one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. The only reason for consideration at all was that it was presented as an “Enabling Development” case.

This is the first Enabling Development of this size on a site of this importance in an urban area – and as such it creates a precedent across the whole of Scotland. There was no proper consideration of alternatives and the financial information remained largely hidden from the public. The Council and the Councillors were out of their depth, did not properly assess the application financially and admitted so. Appendix 2 – the Council’s so-called and very flimsy “financial report” said it had neither applied Enabling development guidelines to the figures nor had it calculated whether there was a conservation deficit. This is unacceptable.

Craighouse will set a precedent for other highly protected sites across Scotland and this has been admitted publicly in the Edinburgh Evening News by the Director of the Federation of Scottish Property, David Melhuish.

How to ask for a Call-In.

Contact the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Derek Mackay MSP

By email at scottish.ministers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

This is the common ministers’ email box – state clearly ‘for the attention of Derek Mackay’

Please copy in our local MSPs so they know you support the Call-In and they can made sure your letter is counted: Jim.Eadie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk, alison.johnstone.msp@scottish.parliament.uk,

Please also ask Local Councillors to write in and ask for a Call-In.

By letter to:

Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning,St. Andrew’s House, Edinburgh EH1 3DG.

For more information on Call-In and more detail that you might like to consider for any letter – please go to this link: http://friendsofcraighouse.com/2014/09/08/craighouse-call-in-campaign-craighouse-call-in/

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CRAIGHOUSE CALL-IN CAMPAIGN #Craighouse call-in

Please write to the Scotttish Government and ask for the Craighouse application to be called in. Please do this very quickly.

If the application is ‘called in’, the Scottish Government takes over the final decision about the fate of Craighouse from the council. This can happen in cases where there is an issue of national importance. Calling-in stopped the Haymarket 17-storey tower.

To be Called-in the effects must be of “national importance”. But, the director of the Scottish Property Federation has already said it will set a national precedent, so there is no doubt it is of national importance: “The precedent of Edinburgh’s Craighouse decision may therefore prove to be a key consideration in assessing redevelopment proposals across Scotland”.

Our MSP, Jim Eadie, has already said in an interview with STV that he will “call on the Scottish Government to investigate the way in which this decision has been made”.

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian is also going to ask the Government to look into this decision as has Ian Murray MP. Andrew Burns, local councillor and leader of the council has said the application warrants call-in. Please add your voice to theirs.

How to ask for a Call-In.

Contact the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Derek Mackay MSP

By email at scottish.ministers@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

This is the common ministers’ email box – state clearly ‘for the attention of Derek Mackay’

By letter to:

Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning,St. Andrew’s House, Edinburgh EH1 3DG.

  • Please use your own words to describe your feelings about how this decision on Craighouse was made against the objections 2MSPs, an MP, 6 local Councillors, the Cockburn Association, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Friends of Craighouse and huge numbers of the public.
  • And say how you feel about the way it contravenes Scottish Planning Policy and Local Policy to protect the site.
  • You can see the quality of the debate on the web cam. We suggest you listen to the debate at the end if you haven’t time for it all. There were excellent presentations from all the opposition.

Important points some of which you might want to include in the communication – use your own words to show your feelings for Craighouse.

  • Ask for City of Edinburgh Council Planning Application 12/04007/SCH3 to be called-in.
  • Craighouse is one of the 7 Hills of Edinburgh, the setting of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, which is of international significance
  • The planning application involves 7 listed buildings and their setting, both building and setting of national importance on Easter Craiglockhart Hill within the Local Nature Conservation Site.
  • The proposal asks for a significant amount of new build which has not been properly justified as enabling development to preserve the listed buildings.
  • The application goes against national planning policy and sets a very dangerous precedent for Enabling Developments across Scotland. The Director of the Scottish Property Federation, a trade body dedicated to the interests of the real estate industry in Scotland, has already hailed it as a precedent:“The precedent of Edinburgh’s Craighouse decision may therefore prove to be a key consideration in assessing redevelopment proposals across Scotland”
  • It will overturn national protections on: listed buildings and their setting; and wildlife and biodiversity.
  • It was opposed by 2MSPs, and MP, 6 local Councillors, the Cockburn Association, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Friends of Craighouse, 7 Community Councils and many other groups as well as huge numbers of people – thousands wrote in to object.
  • The developer has exaggerated the condition of the building using the word ‘critical’ when asked by councillors. This is untrue.

Scottish Planning Policy: “SPP142″

The application was justified on just one national planning policy. No local policies were in favour of the planning application. Therefore, the committee were being asked to consider a national policy and not one of their own Edinburgh policies. It was evident at the hearing on September 3rd that the council planning committee was finding it very difficult to assess this case and was struggling to this Scottish Planning Policy 142 which says:

“Enabling development may be acceptable where it can be clearly shown to be the only means of preventing the loss of the asset and securing its long-term future. Any development should be the minimum necessary to achieve these aims. The resultant development should be designed and sited carefully to preserve or enhance the character and setting of the historic asset.”

  • For Craighouse it is not the ‘only means’ as there are alternative possible uses for the site. The convenor of the planning committee said “I don’t think anyone is in dispute there can’t be an alternative use for this… you’ve made your case that there is an alternative”. So, the plans fail the first test of SPP142 because there clearly is an alternative.
  • No financial plans were presented to the committee for securing the site’s long-term future. No attempt was made to demonstrate the viability of funding long-term maintenance. So, the plans fail the second test of SPP142 because the long-term future is not secured.
  • The amount was not shown to be a minimum as no modelling was presented of a minimum. So, the plans fail the third test of SPP142.
  • The planning report used the word “detriment” 51 times, so it cannot be said that the plans preserve or enhance the character and setting of the historic asset. So the plans fail the fourth test of SPP142.

Saving Craighouse with a community buyout plan

The Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment Bill gives communities the opportunity to save precious sites themselves. The issue of whether communities should be given the opportunity to save sites like Craighouse is critical to consideration of this case. If SPP142 requires alternatives to be investigated, why did Edinburgh Council’s planning committee not think that this was material to their decision? If this precedent is allowed to stand, then what use is the Community Empowerment Bill?

  • There is an alternative Community Plan supported by local business people and working with advice from the Development Trust Association Scotland that will protect the green space in the site and convert the listed buildings for residential and business use.
  • Craighouse would be an ideal flagship case to demonstrate commitment to local empowerment.
  • A strong case with very strong evidence was put together by the local community that the application should not be passed.
  • Ignoring the community’s valid, relevant and material concerns about this development shows the lack of ability of national policies to deliver local empowerment.
  • Large numbers of people wrote strong a material reasons why this application should be refused. They should not be ignored.

Quality of debate

  • Those looking at the web cast online were horrified by the quality of the debate by some of the councillors. Had they read the Planning Report or the objections?

 

Posted in Planning process, Political process, Press coverage | 2 Comments

Craighouse planning application voted through by Councillors

Most of you will have heard the bad news that the Craighouse development was granted by Councillors 9 votes to 6.

This was in the face of overwhelming evidence from the Community Councils, the local politicians, the Friends of Craighouse, The Cockburn Association and the Architectural Heritage Society Scotland – not to mention the contents of the planning report itself – as someone said the most damning report they’d seen with a recommendation to grant on the bottom of it – with 51 uses of the word “detrimental”.

The video of the meeting will be online soon.

Here is an article in the news:

http://edinburgh.stv.tv/articles/290873-craighouse-partnership-decision-stuns-campaigners/

Local MSP Jim Eadie has said he will investigate opportunities for calling the application in by the Scottish Government for greater scrutiny where the decision can be overturned. We would very much support him in doing this. We will let you know next steps and the best way to support this.

http://news.stv.tv/scotland/290882-jim-eadie-calls-for-craighouse-to-be-called-into-scottish-parliament/

If an Enabling development of this size that clearly damages the settings of every historic building in the site, causes “significant detrimental impact” to the Area of Great Landscape Value and that diminishes Edinburgh’s seventh hill (all according to the planning report) can be granted when it does not accord with either LDP or Enabling Development policy, then no protected site is safe.

It was a very sad day for Edinburgh.

However, the news, the clear incompetence of the planners in answering questions, the leading interpretations given by Convenor Ian Perry and some of the pathetic closing speeches by some of the committee Councillors who showed no understanding of their own policies or procedures – or the community either –  has led to a huge further upswell  of support since this terrible decision was announced. People are really upset about this and Facebook and Twitter have been awash with comments. People have been stopping us in the street to pledge their support – with kind offers to stand in front of the bulldozers if it comes to it.

Thanks so much everyone for all you have done and all the support for this beautiful place. This isn’t over. And your continued pledges of support mean a lot.

We’ll post more as soon as we are ready to launch the Call-In Campaign so people know what they can do to help next.
VOTED FOR MOUNTGRANGE’S DEVELOPMENT

VOTED AGAINST

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FLOOD REPORT “DISAPPOINTED” AS CRAIGHOUSE PARTNERSHIP FAIL TO SORT FLOODING ISSUES

Flood Prevention Unit Outlines Technically Incorrect Information in Scheme 3 Application as Craighouse Partnership Ignores Agreement on Allowable Surface Discharge

flooding balcarres

Floods in Balcarres St. reproduced from Flickr – Chris Hill photostream – under a Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/. Click for link.

The flood report recently released from the Council’s Flood Prevention Unit shows that – despite three years of work – the Craighouse Partnership have failed to solve any of the substantial flooding problems that will be created by this development.

In their leaflet disseminated to thousands of households in the area, the Craighouse Partnership claimed that the development didn’t just deal with the issues – but improved them. The Craighouse Partnership’s leaflet stated confidently:

“SUDS ensures 12 % reduction in storm flow, substantially reducing flood risk in local area”.

However, the flood report does not agree and states that it is “disappointed”.  The Flood Prevention Unit’s report outlines that the Craighouse Partnership have gone against the allowable surface discharge agreed with the Council and there is inadequate detail and technically incorrect drawings. The Flood Prevention Unit’s report says:

An allowable surface discharge of 8.4l/s was agreed during previous consultations with the Unit. The developer has increased this to 10.4l/s due to an additional 2l/s of existing hard surfaced landscape. This increase goes against our guidelines, taking the discharge to 5.68 l/s/ha instead of the allowable 4.5l/s/ha.

It adds:

It is disappointing that this could not have been designed to a greater extent prior to planning approval being sought. The current proposals outlined in drawing 503 rev H is not of adequate detail and is technically incorrect.

It adds:

The Flood Prevention Unit will not take on the responsibility of maintaining the proposed ‘swale banks’.

As anyone living locally knows, flooding is a big problem in the area – particularly for Balcarres St, but is also a big risk at Meadowspot which already suffers from flooded gardens. It is a problem Local Councillors, the Community Council and local residents have been battling for years.

flooded balcarres

Balcarres st flooding from the bbc click to link to story

So, we have a situation where the independent experts brought in by the Council’s roads department outlined that the roads plan is potentially dangerous for children and pedestrians on the site and does not properly accommodate emergency vehicles. We now have the Flood Prevention Unit outlining the errors, inadequate response and technically incorrect information submitted about flooding.

Both reports appear now to wash their hands of the whole thing and state that sorting out these messes should be added to any conditions. It’s a bit like saying – give them permission so they can get their land-value rise and sort out the mess afterwards.

Are these departments being pressurised because others in the Council or perhaps the planning department itself wants to wash their hands of the whole thing? We hope not.

For the Council to attempt to push through such an application, when there are such serious problems – and when the developer has so far been incapable or unwilling to put the time and effort into sorting them out, would not just be incompetent but seriously negligent.

It is clear from both these reports that the issues remain and nothing has been sorted from the previously inadequate and inaccurate Scheme 2.

It is also clear that the Craighouse Partnership’s own statements about flooding to the public have been inaccurate and misleading. We hope the Councillors take note of this extremely important issue as flooding is a very serious problem locally.

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Why is the Council Ignoring Road Safety Concerns and Just Demanding Cash Instead?

The current Craighouse proposals (“Scheme 3”) involve very narrow roads, much narrower than the roads there currently, as well as very sharp corners with poor visibility. In May, the council commissioned an independent audit of the proposed roads at Craighouse, which concluded that:

  • Larger emergency vehicles, such as fire engines, would find manoeuvring about the proposed site “onerous” and that this issue needed to be considered.
  • The movement of larger vehicles around the site “could be a hazard to other traffic and any pedestrians in the area, especially children.”
  • There are blind spots, such as the corner proposed to be dug into the embankment by Bevan and this should be considered at the “detailed design stage”.

It is clear that the experts doing the audit expected more detailed designs to be presented, but where are they? Where is the audit of the final designs? Where is the investigation into whether fire engines can get around the site? What is the solution to the blind spots? All we can see is that a refuse vehicle can get to the bin stores (but not the buildings) by doing some very difficult turning manoeuvres in tiny spaces. So, the residents can rest assured that their bins will be emptied (as long as they park their cars very carefully), but if there is a fire, then there could be real trouble getting the fire engines to the buildings inside the site.

What did the council do about all of this?

They wrote a short, badly-spelled letter, asking for £125,000 and said that all of the problems “-which nessesiated the recoomendation for refusal as per my memo of 3 Feb 2014 have been resolved in this submission” [sic]. What about the problems reported in the May audit for the new scheme? Nothing is said about the fire engines, the dangers to children, or the blind spots. All they ask for is £125k and the problems are solved.

What happens if there is a fire? Despite Sundial Properties’ only previous enabling development being destroyed by fire, nothing is said in the application about how fire engines can get into the site. Given the size of the site, what happens if more than one emergency vehicle needs to get in? The roads are only just wide enough for one large vehicle, certainly not two.

Fire engines struggled to put out the fire at Sundial Properties' enabling development, Leslie House, before the building was gutted. How can we be sure that Craighouse will be better protected?

Fire engines struggled to put out the fire at Sundial Properties’ enabling development, Leslie House, before the building was gutted. How can we be sure that Craighouse will be better protected? What lessons were learnt from that disaster?

If, in the case of fire, people need to be rescued from the higher floors of New Craig, say, how would a large fire engine get near the building with ladders and hydraulic platforms? Where would they park? All these things should be investigated in complex planning applications and the independent safety audit undertaken on behalf of the council asked these types of questions. But we see no answers in this planning application. Why?

The audit included paragraphs, such as:

“If larger vehicles were to enter some areas then manoeuvring to egress would involve difficult turning and reversing manoeuvres that could be a hazard to other traffic and any pedestrians in the area, especially children.”

“Access for emergency vehicles also needs to be considered.”

“The comments [...] above also need to be considered when assessing access for emergency vehicles, especially larger fire engines.”

“However it appears to be the case that not all of the residential areas will have full access for delivery and refuse vehicles. For example the south end of Craiglea Place Access Road does not have a turning head.”

None of these problems are shown to have been resolved. The application includes a diagram of refuse vehicles getting in and out of most of the site (although not Craiglea Place or West Craig). But look at how difficult the turning is. The vehicle has to turn using not only the car-park, but also the pavements in front of people’s houses. In fact, if you look closely, the vehicle has to squeeze a corner in between the tiny gap between two walls. There is no room for error, bad parking, or pedestrians. If large vehicles were to stray onto empty parking spaces, they would damage the drainage systems in the car-parks, causing extra maintenance costs or increasing flood risk. How is such damage to be prevented? No answer is given.

This difficult turning manoeuvre is the only way for a refuse vehicle to get around the site

This difficult turning manoeuvre is the only way for a refuse vehicle to get around the site

The developer has spent 3 years on this application. In that time, they have constantly talked about the threat of dereliction. But what about the ability for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the site? Even when experts brought it up as an issue, we see no evidence it is taken seriously, either by the developers or planners. Like so many issues, such as the flooding in Balcarres St, we see no evidence expert advice was followed. How shocking for the council to let them get away with it in return for £125,000.

But there is no money. The developers are trying to justify all this newbuild on protected land as an “enabling development” – which has to be the ONLY way of saving the site and an absolute minimum. Unlike other developments, an Enabling Development does not allow for the Council to simply receive money and payments to get around bad planning.

If this is an Enabling Development, the budget already proposed in the application must be the absolute limit. There is no more money for roads, schools or affordable housing. Yet all those departments in the council are responding to this application with simple demands for cash.

Developers in this situation know they are safe from ever having to pay the money. They can simply go to appeal, saying they can’t afford the payments, and the payments will be removed. The developer even cites exactly such a case in their own financial argument. If the developer and planners try to push this through with claims of payments for different council departments, then the council will get nothing and all the problems of this planning application will go ahead.

The fact that after 3 years the developers still have not properly resolved key issues such as these raises more questions about the seriousness of this application. Many suspect that the intention is simply to get permission and sell the site on with planning permission – for someone else to sort out the mess. Will we end up back at the drawing board with yet another developer trying to force through yet more newbuild as has been the case at Quartermile and as is being attempted at Redhall House?

Why do the Council appear to be waving through bad plans that have failed to rectify issues identified months ago? Why are Council departments sending in cursory badly spelled reports to say that all is fine when none of their earlier criticisms appear to be dealt with? Is someone in planning or the Council trying to push this terrible application through and sitting on this departments to wave it through despite the fact it is unworkable?

Mountgrange’s investment fund is said to be “fully invested”. So who is going to fund this terrible plan?

With the strength of support for the community from our local politicians and the level of incompetence demonstrated by these plans and the strength of support for the site and opposition to the plans from the local community, we are confident these plans can be defeated and a better future achieved for Craighouse.

But this must involve those who actually care about and are invested in the future of this site i.e. the local community.

The hearing is on the 3rd Sept at the City Council chambers. It starts at 10am but please turn up early (any time from 9am) to join people outside and show your support for the site. Tell everyone who cares about protections and green spaces in Edinburgh. If this is passed it will be a disgraceful day for the Councillors and the Edinburgh planning department and will signal an open day on our other sites of Great Landscape Value and bring in yet more bogus “Enabling Developments”.

Why are the transport department saying unsafe and unworkable plans are OK for Craighouse as long as the developer contributes enough to the transport department? (Remember none of this “payment” will be used to solve the problems outlined. So what is going on?)

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Come to the Craighouse planning hearing – September 3rd

The council will be making its decision on the Craighouse planning application on the 3rd September in front of a public audience. The decision will be made by the planning committee, all of whom are councillors, with presentations from the developer, the planning officials, local politicians, a small set of local groups (including Friends of Craighouse, local community councils and the Cockburn Association).

Please come along. The meeting starts at 10am, but if you come earlier and show solidarity for the site and the campaign it will really help show public feeling for the site and the terrible impacts of this development. If you want to, there may be the chance to talk to journalists and councillors if you come before the main meeting. The meeting is to be held in the main council chamber, at City Chambers in the High Street.

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LAST DAY TO OBJECT: TODAY FRI 4th July – email by midnight

A very short 2 minute video.

How to Object

Email: Emma.Wilson@edinburgh.gov.uk and say you object in your own words. It can be as long or as short as you like.

Example really simple objection:

“I object to 12/04007/SCH3. It is against planning policy. ” [add your name and address]

There is more information on material planning objections and example objection on this this link:

http://friendsofcraighouse.com/2014/06/25/please-help-save-this-beautiful-site-object-now-deadline-4th-july/

By putting voices together we can make a difference.

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Enabling Development #fail: Undervalued sales prices – even larger profit for Craighouse Partnership

ONLY TIL FRI MIDNIGHT TO GO:  A QUICK HOW TO OBJECT: Object to Excessive “Scheme 3″  (Ref No: 12/04007/SCH3) and include your name and address. Include at least one material planning objection and anything else you want to say. For more on How to Object and an example paragraph click here: http://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

When questioned about the so-called enabling development case at the public meeting hosted by the Morningside Community Council  – William Gray Muir from the Craighouse Partnership repeated that the figures were the Council’s figures, not the Craighouse Partnership’s. The figures, he said, had been fully audited by the Council and an independent third party.  The sales were all the Council’s figures,  people were told. The Craighouse Partnership’s sales prices, he said, would have been even lower.
However, the story was somewhat different at a further presentation given at the Craiglockhart Community Council meeting. When challenged on the figures by members of the public, William Gray Muir admitted that the Council have not fully audited the Scheme 3 figures yet.

So which is it? We would like to get a bit of clarity on this – as on many things to do with Craighouse and the so-called “enabling case”.

Continue reading

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Buzzardtastic – Why our City Wildlife Sites like Craighouse are so Important (until 4th July to Object)

Buzzard over New Craigdetail

Buzzard gliding over New Craig detail sent in by local birdwatcher

ONLY TIL FRI MIDNIGHT TO GO:  A QUICK HOW TO OBJECT: Object to Excessive “Scheme 3″  (Ref No: 12/04007/SCH3) and include your name and address. Include at least one material planning objection and anything else you want to say. For more on How to Object and an example paragraph click here: http://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

As you will know from the Council’s attempt to remove large areas of Craighouse from the Local Biodiversity Site designation, the Council’s wildlife data Buzzard over New Craig2kept on Craighouse is extremely poor.

TWIC (the Wildlife Information Centre) holds all the information for the Council. But this information is then sold to developers. But not available to members of the public. This leaves local people in a quandary about whether or not to submit their data to these organisations.

TWIC holds a birdlist for the entire Easter Craiglockhart Hill site. It has one bird on it. The magpie.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus web

A baby long-tailed tit photographed at Craighouse by Fiona Mackay

Anyone on the site today can instantly see this isn’t true. Two pairs of buzzards are circling the site today – one pair is wheeling over Bevan. The other pair are wheeling over the site proposed for the new “Burton” block. Last year, there was a very noisy baby who crashed all about the site for all to see. This year it seems we have two pairs – and locals have said to me they think that a pair have moved from the Royal Edinburgh Site which, of course, is being developed.

In addition to these large raptors – not mentioned on TWIC’s birdlists – sparrowhawks are also residents and have been seen mobbing the buzzards watched by local residents. Peregrine falcons have also been sighted this year.  There are kestrels that are sighted on the LNR and also on the orchard. I have frequently seen a kestrel on the central group of apple trees and there is often kestrels hovering on the LNR.

Baccha elongata

Baccha elongata Wildlife needs the small fauna and flora to be established in order to maintain a strong eco-system. Mature woodland cannot be mitigated against by simply planting saplings. It is the established nature of woods and their eco-systems that is so valuable.

Information about the marked protected breeding sites is held by Hawkwatch, part of Scottish Natural Heritage. This is secret to the general public but not to the Council and would have been made available to the developers too. So why did TWIC not ask SNH and Hawkwatch for their wildlife data when they gave the data on the site to the Council that was to be used for the Local Biodiversity Site boundary? Why did the Council not obtain the data held by SNH, Hawkwatch, Lothian Badger Group etc when they decided to try to redesignate large chunks of the Craighouse site to remove areas from the Local Biodiversity Site designation (and protection)? Many of these areas appear to be under carparking in the Craighouse Partnership Scheme 3. If they had, they could never have produced that famous birdlist of one – the magpie.

The Scheme 3 development will have a negative impact on the wildlife of Craighouse – with the homes of protected species being destroyed, disrupted and feeding grounds lost to excessive development and carparking. The Environmental Assessment undertaken by the developer is incomplete with surveys left incomplete.

Apart from all of this, however, is a far more simple issue. Craighouse is a Local Nature Conservation Site because of the wildlife, the mosaic of habitats (described as “exceptional” for a city environment by the Conservation Area Appraisal) but also because of the accessibility and ability of local people to see and enjoy that wildlife.

One person at a Morningside Community Council meeting a few months ago described the magic of seeing a deer’s footprints in the snow. People have told us about the birds, the mammals, the goldcrests, the woodpeckers, the owls, the long-tailed tits, the birds of prey, the deer- and yes, the badgers they have seen on the site. There are the magnificent buzzards and the excitement of perhaps catching sight of a peregrine – but there are also the smaller pleasures of meeting a toad, as the children on the litter pick did the other day – or the three gorgeous baby owls that caused so much excitement for so many locals this year. There are woodpeckers all round the site (I have heard and seen them year on year) and there has been an exciting sighting of what is thought to be a Holly Blue (extremely rare in Scotland) – on the area due to be destroyed by the enormous building, Burton. Another frequent visitor – a bee expert -reported a sighting of black bees to us.

CraighouseMeadowCuckooflower

Cuckoo Flower in Craighouse meadow

There is a wonderful resource of people around this special sight willing and able to work with the Council to collect data on the wildlife in order to protect and enhance that wildlife.

All around the site, the local area has been built on over the years. All the areas around Craighouse are now developed – many in quite recent years – removing the places wildlife previously could be seen and enjoyed. Other green sites rich in wildlife are also being developed with the Royal Edinburgh Hospital seeing wildlife coming off the site and traveling to Craighouse (such as the second pair of buzzards). The question to be asked is – how do we protect our wildlife? And how do we protect such a very special wildlife space in the city for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy?

Mitigation is known to be a dodgy territory. The idea that the loss of large sections of mature woodland can be mitigated against by planting lots of saplings (that appear mainly designed to hide the new buildings) simply does not work. You cannot replace the biodiversity value of mature woodland. Not for several generations. We are talking about entire eco-systems here from the insects to the fungi – all of which are established over time and which feed and support other species. The presence of lots of birds of prey -such as at Craighouse – shows that there is a strong eco-system here going all the way up the food-chain.

Craighouse is protected as a Local Nature Conservation Site and an Area of Great Landscape Value. All the trees on the site are protected with the equivalent of Tree Protection Orders on them. But what does any of this mean if developers can destroy the protected sites of protected species, take down 90 mature protected trees, destroy feeding areas of protected species and cut off the access our wild creatures have from the woodland into the open space (used for feeding) on what is supposed to be a site protected in terms of Nature and Wildlife?

What does it mean for the city’s other protected sites? Hermitage? Blackford Hill? Corstorphine Hill? Midmar Paddock?

Under the Friends of Craighouse Alternative Plan, which is based on the development of the listed buildings without the need for excessive newbuild – large areas of woodland would not need to be destroyed for excessive newbuild and parking. The grounds will be managed in such a way that it can remain a haven for wildlife, for generations now and in the future to watch and discover.

Developing the listed buildings will cause far less disruption to the site. Under the Craighouse Partnership plans ,  there will be more newbuild than all the listed building put together – mainly in large apartment or housing blocks. These take out sites of protected species and have the associated major disruption and mess of these 6 newbuild development sites and their associated infrastructure (unnecessary if the listed buildings were developed alone or with a very limited amount of newbuild). This is luxury housing, therefore nothing to do with housing need. The site will be severely disrupted and in a mess until at least 2020. That is a lot of years missed by local people and local children who could be out enjoying this superb place.

Under the Alternative Forward Plan, the listed buildings will be developed with a plan that is based on getting the profit out of the listed buildings – not excessive newbuild. They will be developed as smaller separate projects, whilst the land will be safe-guarded for the community. This means the site will not be cut off or become inaccessible for many years with far less disruption to both the site itself, the wildlife who live there – and people’s lives – those who regularly walk on and use this wonderful site.

It can remain a haven for wildlife short and long term and a haven for the people who want to enjoy this very beautiful place – keeping it accessible, with benches restored and the spectacular views remaining open and protected as they are supposed to be – not destroyed by inappropriate buildings and the forestation of the open parkland – a part of the Craighouse Partnership’s poor attempt at mitigation which shows no understanding of the nature or history of this particular landscape.

Please do all you can to tell people what is happening so they can object to ugly plans that show no proper understanding of the nature or the landscape of this special place. Craighouse could have a very bright future – but we have to fight to enable that to happen.

Please spread the word. Objections by midnight on Fri 4th July – for more and an example paragraph click here: http://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

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Last few days to save Craighouse – 4th July deadline (this Friday)

QUICK HOW TO OBJECT: Object to Excessive “Scheme 3″  (Ref No: 12/04007/SCH3) and include your name and address. Include at least one material planning objection and anything else you want to say. For more on How to Object and an example paragraph click here: http://friendsofcraighouse.com/how-to-object/

The alternative

Document 1 - thumbnailThere is an alternative that saves the buildings and the grounds! Read about it here

A group of local businesspeople are forming a community organization to put together a plan to buy out the site. These kinds of projects are incredibly successful and surprisingly easy to fund. Look at some other communities and groups that have saved buildings.

The financial case

Yet again, the financial case for the development at Craighouse is nonsensical, even though we pointed out these mistakes last time:

  • One of the buildings, South Craig, is listed as larger on the inside than outside! (Strictly speaking, its Net Internal Area is listed as higher than its Gross Internal Area).
  • The buildings are simultaneously presented as financially not viable and yet at the same time worth £4.7m if broken up and sold individually for a “low-key use”, using special rules designed for historic barns. This is presented with no supporting evidence.
  • Flats and houses in A-listed buildings, with views across Edinburgh, in 50 acres of woodland are said to be worth less, per square foot, than the average flat in EH10 and 20% less per square foot than buildings across the road.
  • The cost of building car-parks, a massive set of underground tanks to prevent further flooding down the hill, as well as new pipes, electricity and gas supplies for 172,000 square foot of new-build is quoted as being exactly the same cost as improving water capacity and car-parking to listed buildings that already have water, electricity, gas and car-parking.
  • The claims about the figures being “checked” and “audited” keep changing. If the figures are checked, where is the report backing that up and why so many huge mistakes?
  • The figures show that all buildings are very profitable, apart from New Craig (the large listed building) which is still profitable, but not massively so. So it is only New Craig that needs “saving” (if any buildings need saving). Yet the phasing leaves the completion of the conversion of New Craig until last in the project, along with the second largest listed building, Queens Craig. The planning system has no power to enforce the “saving” of buildings using profits from the new-build, so there is no good reason to believe this project saves the largest listed buildings anyway.

The Proposals

The developer shows very few images of their buildings that make any sense (check them carefully and you’ll see they’re not the same as in the plans). So we have carefully and painstakingly modelled ourselves from the plans.

‘Burton’

Probably the most obvious is the largest proposed building, Burton, which will be very visible from the entrance to the site as well as the orchard.

Burton viewed from inside the entrance to the site

Burton viewed from inside the entrance to the site

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