Wildlife at Craighouse and some of the Smaller Stars of the Site

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus web

This beautiful photo of a juvenile long-tailed tit was taken at Craighouse and sent to us by Fiona Mackay whose owns the copyright for all the photos reproduced here. We’d like to thank her for sending these superb pictures to us.

You may remember that the Council have been trying to quietly drop large areas of the Craighouse site from the Local Biodiverstiy Site designation in their proposed New Local Plan.

Craighouse is a very special place for wildlife.

Not only is it a unique combination of habitats – exceptional in the city environment (and that’s not just me that says that but the Conservation Area Appraisal) but it is a place that people can easily see wildlife – from the oldest to the littlest of us. The open parkland is a particularly easy place to see kestrels, for example. A baby buzzard was seen by many last year as it crashed and squawked its way all over the site – demanding food off its long-suffering parents.  Fieldfares and Redwings can be seen on the orchard, as can bats – owls and woodpeckers heard and seen on the parkland and in the woods and we recently received a list from a birdwatcher that included the peregrine falcon!

Key also to the Biodiversity Site Designation, that the Council have been trying to remove from large areas of the site,  is the accessibility and interaction with the community. The orchard/parkland is an area that all – young or old – can enjoy and see nature. This summer was a blizzard of bumble bees and other insects. There are goldcrests and long-tailed tits, mistle and song thrushes, and deer and rabbit and fox along with protected species.

The Council are trying to maintain that only the actual roosts or dens of animals should be covered by biodiversity designation. Basically we are going to see our nature sites divided up like checkerboards with tiny areas covered and others uncovered for development. This goes against everything that LBSs are supposed to be – they are supposed to be areas of a certain size, they are supposed to be areas that communites can interact with and enjoy, they are supposed to make sense.

Mirid or Capsid bugs Grypocoris stysi small

Mirid or Capsid bugs Grypocoris stysi

Since researching the LBS, I’ve been shocked how many of the birds and animals common 20 years ago when I was a teenager are now rare or threatened – kestrels, sparrows, swifts being just some. If the authorities’ attitude to biodiversity is as we are experiencing at Craighouse – we are looking at a depressing situation. Planning appears to be so skewed towards development as an end in itself, that they are failing to assess, to protect, to enforce policy and protection or to defend our most precious sites.

Pentatoma rufipes small

Pentatoma rufipes

We were told the removal of the LBS from large areas of the site was a “desk exercise” based on maps. But neither the map they sent us from 2006 (I know!) or the recent audit map backs them up. The Council have still have not explained how or why they have classified so many areas as “amenity grass” in contradiction to these maps. The latter map, for example, classifies nearly all the areas they are trying to remove as “Parkland with Scattered Trees” – a completely different classification with completely different scoring under the Council’s new methodology. (The whole of the orchard/parkland is categorised as “Parkland with Scattered Trees”.)

So why have the Council decided to call areas amenity grass without any assessment? (Remember that famous birdlist for the entire site consisting of one bird – the magpie?)

Why have they changed the methodology without consultation? And why they have failed to apply the new methodology they quote correctly?

We were told the site could only be protected if it has a special fungus (umm, the audit says it does.)

We were told the amenity grass was to be removed (yet they have removed areas not classified as amenity grass on older and more recent maps).

Local Biodiversity Sites are defined under Scottish Planning Policy and Craighouse would seem to epitomise the kind of site envisaged – not just good for wildlife but with a strong interaction and relation to the local community as well.

A thrush in full song (both Song and Mistle Thrushes are found on the site)

This issue is something that local people care a lot about and affects the animals and green spaces across our city. Craighouse is no ordinary green space (and don’t get me wrong – I am someone who cares about the city’s green spaces). It is a place you can see rabbits, foxes, deer, buzzards, kestrels, sparrowhawks, woodpeckers, blizzards of tiny creatures, frogs and toads, common and soprano pipestrelle bats, badgers and owls.

It is an utterly magical place. But planning appears to be happy to sacrifice that for an offshore speculative fund that has already lost the city millions upon millions of pounds.

We would like to see our local Councillors (and those who care about the city as a whole) pursue this issue properly. We should add that local Councillor Gavin Corbett has made concerted efforts to get some answers on this.  However, it remains the case that officials cannot show how they arrived at this decision, cannot point to the maps that justify it. Instead, people have been simply been sent convoluted letters about policy documents that they have failed to ratify, failed to consult on, and – as we’ve seen above – failed to follow!

Craighouse needs more than to be considered just as an exploitable piece real estate in a desirable area. It offers something magical that few other sites have. It is a beautiful unspoiled place where young and old can see all those animals. They don’t have to be experts or mountain-climbers to see wonderful things – the parkland is easily accessible – even to the very top of the hill is easy to climb and the wildlife is all around the site, right under your nose. I’ve seen more wildlife at Craighouse than anywhere I’ve lived (and I used to live in the country as a teen.)

Comma Butterfly larva Polygonia c-album

Comma Butterfly larva Polygonia

This – it seems – is lost on some planners and on people who should know a lot better.

Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis

Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris

We’ve been sent some absolutely stunning photos of wildlife at Craighouse – all taken on the site, so I thought I would put some up here. These are gorgeous photos taken by Fiona Mackay – a photographer with a string of impressive letters behind her name including ARPS and AFIAP (Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and Artiste de la Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique).

These beautiful and sometimes overlooked residents of Craighouse have graced the walls of many international photographic exhibitions and the pages of many prestigious wildlife publications. They are all on the site – waiting to be discovered by the next generation who grow up with and love the site.*

Xylaria hypoxylonsmall

Xylaria hypoxylon

The biodiversity steering group and the Council cannot justify themselves.

Come on, Edinburgh. We can do better than this. We HAVE to do better than this for our beautiful natural spaces.

The Proposed Local Development Plan received a large number of submissions on this issue – and yet still nothing has been done to correct it.

However, the plan is not passed….Yet.

The Proposed Local Development Plan will be open to consultation again soon due to being knocked back by the Scottish Government. We will be alerting you when that consultation is open, so that you can write in about this issue again before the consultation deadline to make sure that the Council  and our elected representatives know we are not going to just forget about this and we are not going to accept large areas of Craighouse being removed from the Local Biodiversity Site designation in this arbitrary and unjustified fashion.

We’ll keep you posted.

*This is just some of the wonderful photos we’ve been sent including some glorious spider photos including a Wolf Spider. I’ve not included that here in case anyone has a fear of spiders. But they are absolutely terrific!
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The Enabling Development Case at Craighouse: The story of the deficient deficit

We were sent the following article by Nick Honhold, who has been analysing the Craighouse Partnership’s enabling development case.

The developers have finally admitted, after years of stating otherwise, that the existing listed buildings on the site are indeed profitable without newbuild. Their argument now is that this profit is not enough and they should be allowed to puts lots of newbuild on Craighouse to make more profit.  They claim there is a conservation deficit on the site – i.e. that newbuild is required to bring the development to a level of profitability to make a financially viable percentage return on investment.

interior2

We are being asked to believe that this is the entrance hallway to a below-average value flat

Nick’s detailed analysis below shows that if you value the sales price of the conversions more realistically in line with similar properties, the Craighouse Partnership’s claimed “conservation deficit”  disappears. The developers can make the percentage return on investment they state is necessary by converting the listed buildings alone.

We would like to thank Nick Honhold for sending us this article.

The enabling development case at Craighouse: The story of the deficient deficit. Guest Article by Nick Honhold

The Craighouse site has many protections and it is explicitly against many of the council’s own and national policies to build on the land. The only way to get around this is to demonstrate that the preservation of the Category A listed buildings is not financially viable on its own and therefore requires the profit from a minimum amount of new build to make it worth the developer’s while to convert them. Now, there are all sorts of issues in those statements, but putting them to one side for the moment, we will focus on the financial argument, that there exists what is called a “conservation deficit” (meaning there isn’t enough profit to be made from the conversions alone to make it worth doing).

The Craighouse Partnership were very reluctant to provide detailed financial figures in Scheme 1 but were forced to do so for Scheme 2, partly through pressure from the community insisting they be made to do so. Their financial case is presented in a document that you can download from the Edinburgh planning portal (called 12_04007_FUL_ENABLING_DEVELOPMENT_NUMBERS_SUMMARY__SCHEME_2_-1722627 and best found by searching for the word “numbers” on the documents page).

The figures they published claim to show that if they only converted the existing buildings, they would only make in a profit of £1.2 million which they calculate to be 3.8% of Gross Development Value (GDV: basically the total income from sales). They use other precedents that developers should be allowed a profit of 20% of GDV (but see below). Bingo, a conservation deficit of 16% GDV; fire up the bulldozers.

Is this interior worth less than a new-build flat?

Is this interior worth less than a new-build flat?

But examination of the figures reveals that they have valued the sale price of all the converted flats at only £290 per square foot (”psf”). Elsewhere in the document they use a sale value of £350 psf for the proposed new build blocks of Burton and Napier, the two monoliths proposed for the bottom of the hill. Somehow, the Craighouse Partnership think the converted flats would sell for getting on for 20% less per square foot than these new build flats.

This looked very odd. So we phoned around local house selling agents. They gave us a range of valuations between £300 and £400 psf depending on the age and condition of a flatted property in Morningside. Higher values would be paid for new or recently refurbished properties with off street parking, lifts, new electrics etc. That would seem to describe both the conversions and the proposed new build at Craighouse. Never mind the stunning setting, views etc.

Part of the area that council planners have given consent to become a construction site

The Craighouse Partnership have valued properties in here 20% less than…

The next step was to look at the impact of the sale price on profit levels from the conversions alone i.e. without any new build. The table at the end of this article shows the calculations in detail for those who like those things.

napier obscuring Arthur's Seat

…properties in here. Really?

But the key points are these. If you put the same £350 psf sale value on the conversions as on the new build (And why wouldn’t you? The only thing that might detract from their sale value is the presence of large monoliths nearby damaging the setting of the buildings) the developers would reach a profit of almost £8 million on the conversions alone which is a profit margin of 20% of GDV and 25% of costs. Even using a more conservative sale price of £325, an easily achievable price in the area, they still make a profit of £5 million and a profit margin of 14% GDV and 16.5% of costs*.

So, there is no “conservation deficit” even using the developers own costs and own way of calculating it.

interior craighouse

Interior at Craighouse

It is important to make clear that for all of these calculations, we have used the costs exactly as stated by the Craighouse Partnership and included them all. Several of those costs are questionable such as an across the board 12% of costs as consultants fees and a substantially increased cost of converting New Craig in Scheme 2 compared to Scheme 1 (by over £3 million). When we do get into the costs, the argument falls apart even further. But even without questioning the costs, there is no conservation deficit.

We’ve used the £350 sale value because it is the sale price for the cheapest of the new build flats. If we use the higher sale value of £390 that the Craighouse Partnership put on the new build flats in Clouston Villa (which would be built next to and over shadow South Craig) the overall profit on the conversions alone would climb to £12 million, a margin on GDV of 28% and on costs of 40%.

20% less than the newbuild? Less than average for the local area?

Nor is the developer’s case helped at all by Retties (apparently the source of their £290 psf value), leafleting the area recently about an expected 20% increase in property value in the area over the next year or two. Just that would increase the sale price from £290 to £348 psf and £350 to £420. But even without this hoped for rise in property prices, there is no conservation deficit.

There is no way in which the council should accept the developer’s published figures as showing a conservation deficit. And if the Craighouse Partnership manages to come up with another set of figures for Scheme 3, then that will just demonstrate that we cannot trust a word they say. Indeed, we expect they will suddenly manage to find that the conversion costs will be higher than the previous studies had found, just as they did between Schemes 1 and 2.

The developers have their eyes on the bottom line, not on the skyline of this site and this city. Our simple and well supported analysis shows that the buildings can be preserved and the site saved without any new build.

turmeau hall

Most of the listed conversions will be high-end newly finished conversions, have stunning views – either across the city or of the beautiful grounds – and also have access to  communal areas like this. Are we really to believe these properties are 20% less psft than the newbuild and less than the average price psft for the immediate area?

There are many other arguments around the enabling development which will be addressed elsewhere. But on the simple, first and essential step of showing that new build can be justified, the developers have failed. There is no conservation deficit.

The table is here to let anyone check the maths that has gone into this analysis of how the deficient deficit was created. Note that as well as %GDV the table shows profit as a percentage of costs, which is actually what the guidance says should be used and note that the same guidance recommends a profit level of 15-20%.

*The line highlighted in red is their claimed sales values – the line in green is a more realistic sales values, based on prices for similar properties in the area and price ranges by sales’ agents.

Sale price per square foot (psf) Total sales Total costs** Profit Profit as % of income (GDV) Profit as % of costs
£290 £31,959,450 £30,747,182 £1,212,268 3.79% 3.94%
£300 £33,061,500 £2,314,318 7.00% 7.53%
£310 £34,163,550 £3,416,368 10.00% 11.11%
£320 £35,265,600 £4,518,418 12.81% 14.70%
£325 £35,816,625 £5,069,443 14.15% 16.49%
£330 £36,367,650 £5,620,468 15.45% 18.28%
£340 £37,469,700 £6,722,518 17.94% 21.86%
£350 £38,571,750 £7,824,568 20.29% 25.45%
£360 £39,673,800 £8,926,618 22.50% 29.03%
£370 £40,775,850 £10,028,668 24.59% 32.62%
£380 £41,877,900 £11,130,718 26.58% 36.20%
£390 £42,979,950 £12,232,768 28.46% 39.79%
£400 £44,082,000 £13,334,818 30.25% 43.37%

** Costs are as given by the Craighouse Partnership including financing costs

* Note from Friends of Craighosue: comparing profits is complicated. Not all profit calculations are the same. In fact they can vary massively depending on what is called the “business model”, which is why the same profit can be shown is different percentages according to the way you calculate it.

 

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Caltongate, Angry Authors, Edinburgh World Heritage and that Missing Letter

caltongate2

“Not hideous enough to reject”?

You may remember that we reported on the situation at Caltongate recently.

The controversial development – granted by the planning committee in January – is back in the news with a group of famous Scottish writers calling for it to be scrapped in the Independent and the Scotsman, while it was announced yesterday that UNESCO could be called in. There is also this very interesting article, asking why the developers at Caltongate are not being required to pay any rates.

At Friends of Craighouse, we have taken an interest in this particular development because it is a development that affects another very protected part of Edinburgh – the World Heritage Site -  and also because of its history and relationship to Mountgrange, who drew up the controversial masterplan, demolished buildings that were being used by the community and got planning consent for a very controversial development that included further demolition – of listed and historic buildings in and around the Royal Mile. After being granted consent, Mountgrange Capital went into administration to the tune of c. £70m in 2009 – leaving the area they demolished as an undeveloped hole in the ground which it has remained since.

There is a tendency by those in power to present these issues in terms of where we are now. But it’s also important to see the progression of events. Last year, the planning committee chose to renew Mountgrange’s highly controversial applications – which were due to expire – for new South African developers Artisan, which is mostly owned by Atterbury, a South African property developer. They did this despite everyone seeming in agreement that the old Mountgrange plans were economically unviable in the new economic climate. At the committee hearing – which I attended – they talked of doing this in order to help Artisan keep their land values up to help them with their investors.

This is not a planning reason and this renewal should not have happened. All but two Councillors on the committee – Councillor Bagshaw and Councillor Mowat – voted to renew them.

At the time, Councillor Maureen Child asked why the applications couldn’t be split up – i.e. why couldn’t some of the applications (I think there was a total of 15) be regranted, whilst others – in particular the demolition consents – be allowed to expire.

It was a good question and it was the Planning Convenor Ian Perry and officials who pushed against this with officials giving the impression they couldn’t be split and Ian Perry pretty much saying they just had to trust the developer. Here is a tweet from STV attending the meeting at the time:

perry tweet

It did not sound convincing to protestors at the time, who feared the continued threat of the demolitions consents could be used to put the community and those who care about conservation between a rock and a hard place in terms of any new application that came in.

And, indeed, a year later, this came to pass. It was Cllr Ian Perry again, pushing for the new Caltongate plan against the protests of a large portion of the planning committee and saying the development was  “good enough”.

No one on the planning committee was able to argue that this development constituted architectural excellence as befitted a World Heritage site. However, by renewing the previous consents – they had put themselves in a corner.

The development was passed although several Councillors were not convinced this time, including Vice Convenor, Sandy Howat, who said “good enough wasn’t good enough” for the World Heritage Site. The vote was tight at 8 to 6.

Caltongate is now the subject of massive controversy. 5,000 people signed a petition against it before the hearing. The development involves two budget hotels and another hotel, plus offices and architecture that Euan Leitch, presenting for the Architectural Heritage Society at the hearing, likened to building Edinburgh Park at the heart of the Old Town.

Most of Caltongate is a gapsite (created by Mountgrange) and no-one contests that this gapsite needs developing. However, the plans also affect existing historic and listed buildings including the beautiful Macrae Tenements on the Royal Mile which are to be demolished apart from a facade with a 2 storey “triumphal arch” (as Vice Convenor Howat called it at the hearing) smashed through it. The Sailor’s Ark will also be demolished and facaded – but also have modern stuff build on top of it – interfering with the historic impression given on the street front of the Royal Mile itself. The Canongate Venture will be saved (a good thing) but swamped by new development.

These were all sound buildings. The Canongate Venture was used by the community, the Sailor’s Ark was used by homeless services and the Macrae tenements provided social housing. The Council vacated these to make way for Mountgrange plans, then left them lying empty for years. Artisan was unable to provide any sensible justification for why the destruction of the listed buildings was really necessary when asked at the hearing.

This is – in other words – a development where the Council hope to make money by selling historic buildings that are now to be demolished or facaded or incorporated into a very modern office and retail development by an offshore South African developer with – you’ve guessed it – directors in the Isle of Man and funding via the British Virgin Islands.

At the hearing, Councillor Joanna Mowat (who, to her credit, refused to renew the old Mountgrange plans to Artisan last year) used the unfortunate phrase “not hideous enough to reject”. This phrase has now become irrevocably associated with the attitude of politicians and officials to planning in Edinburgh. Is this what planning in Scotland is reduced to? Can we not aspire to good architecture even in the World Heritage Site?

There is much quarreling going on in the papers and the comments on newspaper articles online. Some blame heritage groups and protestors for holding up the scheme which has lead to the gapsite for all these years. But, let’s look at the facts:

  • Mountgrange’s bad masterplan (passed).
  • Mountgrange unpopular plans (passed).
  • The renewal of these highly controversial plans to Artisan (passed).
  • The new plans – not “hideous enough to reject” (passed).

Far from holding things off, last year the entire Old Town Community Council resigned en masse explaining that they were not listened to at all, were overwhelmed with the number of developments they had to deal with – with no help from the Council. They believed that the residents – the “living city” of the old town – are being pushed out to make way for a vast over-provision of budget hotels and commercial space, without proper provision for the community who is living in the Canongate.

As for heritage groups – many have now been neutered. Historic Scotland does little to protect the historic environment and routinely fails to defend protected settings anymore (look at the recent debacle over Clyde Falls – another World Heritage Site). Whilst the charitable organisation, Edinburgh World Heritage – a previous battler for heritage and quality in the World Heritage site – have been left making whimpers of protest only.

Who is Edinburgh World Heritage?

Edinburgh World Heritage is an organisation with the role of championing and protecting the World Heritage Site. It previously did fight for quality in the World Heritage Site, yet in recent years on some of the biggest issues concerning the World Heritage Site it stays very quiet.

Despite having charitable status which should mean it is independent, Edinburgh World Heritage recieves considerable public funding – from the Council and Historic Scotland. Yet they appear to have little in the way of transparency or accountability – operating a policy of secret and internal register of interests that are not available to the public.

“The Chair emphasised the importance of transparency in recording all relevant interests in the register which might give rise to a potential conflict with the organisation, but recognised that the information provided might be sensitive, particularly regarding business interests. He therefore recommended that the register of interests should be a confidential document, available to trustees and staff, but not publicly available.” (From EWH’s minutes May 2013)

Their minutes are often highly redacted.

Their board of Trustees include the current Planning Convenor, Cllr Ian Perry, who led the charge to push through the renewal of Mountgrange’s plans last year and who pushed for the new plans for Artisan to be passed this year. The EWH Trustees also include the former Planning Committee Convenor, Trevor Davies – who passed Mountgrange’s masterplan and championed the original, highly controversial Mountgrange plans that triggered the UNESCO investigation  in the first place. This board also contains a certain William Gray Muir of Sundial Properties – who is presently trying to push through unacceptable newbuild against the policies and protections at Craighouse, and who threatened to sue me when I questioned the state of the Craighouse buildings a year or so back. In that legal letter, he demanded that I sign a gagging contract consisting of 6 points. One was that I would not suggest either verbally or in written form that he was an inappropriate person to be on the board of Edinburgh World Heritage and that I was not allowed verbally or in written form to suggest   “(e)  That Mountgrange had any control over the Canongate Venture and/or that any persons connected with the Craighouse Partnership was responsible for the Macrae Tenements being placed on the Buildings at Risk Register as a result of dilapidation.

(The point is Mountgrange applied for and obtained consent to demolish and part-demolish them!)

The question about Edinburgh World Heritage is: has this “charity” become too dominated by its relationship to the Council to do its job properly and independently? Is it remaining sufficiently independent from the interests of its Trustees?

Caltongate and Edinburgh World Heritage

During the Caltongate hearing, one of the issues that was raised by committee member Councillor Bagshaw was that of the World Heritage site and whether UNESCO had been consulted.

The officials told the committee that the plans presented met UNESCO’s requirements and were the result of extensive consultation with Historic Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage. The impression was given that Edinburgh World Heritage was happy with the scheme.

caltongate4

This ugly building is planned for near the Jeffrey St arches as part of the Caltongate development. Is this really the pinnacle of architectural design as expected in a World Heritage site? Looks more like a car showroom

First, UNESCO’s report from their visit in 2008 made it clear that they did not support the demolition of the listed buildings (facading notwithstanding) – and the Sailor’s Ark is listed and still to be demolished. Unesco also subsequently asked for a buffer zone around the World Heritage Site – something that seems to have been ignored by planning and Edinburgh World Heritage.

Second, the application was not the result of extensive consultation with Edinburgh World Heritage, as a missing letter from Edinburgh World Heritage showed.

“We noted in the letter of the 25th March a series of ways in which the draft proposals might be adapted to support the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site. We do not see that the opportunity has been taken to do so.”

“…we do not believe the proposals take advantage of the opportunity presented to reconsider the site and have a positive impact on the World Heritage Site. The challenges we laid down in the letter of the 25th March have not been taken up, and indeed some of the elements in the public consultation that represented an improvement have been weakened.” (Adam Wilkinson, Edinburgh World Heritage, Sept 2013)

Only the more cautiously hopeful letter from Edinburgh World Heritage, written six months before in March (before they had seen the final plans) was made available to the public and to the committee members. This was copiously quoted by the developers in their application, giving the impression of EWH’s support.

But the critical Sept letter – the letter that actually responded to the actual plans themselves – was not made available either on the planning portal, or on the Edinburgh World Heritage website.

Why was it not published on the portal, or mentioned in the officials’ report or brought to the attention of the committee members? Why was it not mentioned by officials at the hearing when questioned by Cllr Bagshaw?

Is it not misleading the committee to say the plans were the result of consultation with Edinburgh World Heritage – when it is clear that none of EWH’s suggestions made in their March letter were taken up and EWH states the scheme had weakened since consultation stage? Yet the impression was actively given at the hearing by officials that Edinburgh World Heritage were happy with the scheme that was being submitted.

What Happened to the Edinburgh World Heritage Sept Letter and Why was it Not Made Available to the Public?

One of our members who is worried about the Caltongate development asked the Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, Adam Wilkinson, directly for Edinburgh World Heritage’s response to the application months before the hearing. But Wilkinson failed to send the letter until the day of the hearing itself – months later. He said it didn’t need to be made public because it would be on the planning portal, and therefore in the public domain and available to all.

But no copy of that letter appeared on the planning portal. No copy of that letter formed a part of the officials’ planning report. And no copy of that letter appeared on the Edinburgh World Heritage website either – for the information of their own members. It seems that Councillors on the committee weren’t aware of this letter either.

When asked by the Evening News, Cllr Ian Perry announced that he would investigate and that everything should have been circulated to the committee.

But nothing has been revealed about any result from such an investigation.

Instead, days later, Councillor Perry and Adam Wilkinson released a joint statement to the Evening News to say that the negative impact to the World Heritage Site was “minor”. But neither have explained why this letter was suppressed or how it failed to be released or made available on so many fronts.

How can EWH claim to be independent of its funders and trustees (as it is required to be as a charity) when it is writing a joint letter to the newspapers with a politician, who is the head of the Council’s planning committee and an EWH Trustee, to defend the Council in not making EWH’s views available to the planning committee or the general public?

If the committee had known EWH’s misgivings and the fact that the development would have a negative impact on the World Heritage Site – they may well have called for changes to the scheme. Even if they had recommended approval, they could have done so subject to changes or conditions that would have allowed them to counter the worst aspects (including the unjustifiable demolitions) of a scheme that even the supporting Councillors couldn’t praise beyond “not hideous enough to reject”. This choice, however, was taken away from them.

macrae tenements

The traditional view of the Macrae tenements in the Canongate – due to be demolished and facaded with a 2 storey “triumphal arch” put through the front

Big questions remain about the relationship between the Council and Edinburgh World Heritage and the part that the Planning Department played in suppressing information that should have been circulated to the committee and made publicly available.

Further questions remain about the role of Edinburgh World Heritage: its lack of transparency, its charitable status and its independence from its funders, the huge amount of public funding it receives without accompanying systems of accountability and transparency, and its failure to protect our most important sites – particularly when this may be against the interests of its board members.

What does this have to do with Craighouse?

Caltongate and Craighouse are two very different issues. However, Craighouse has also received its fair share of lack of proper process and transparency in decision-making.

From the failure to release what should have been publicly available paperwork about the “old consent”, to the Council’s renewal of that consent against statute (which we continue to challenge)…

From officials removing the Local Biodiversity designation over large areas of the site in the new Local Development Plan (based on zero assessment and a birdlist of one bird: the magpie), to the planning department’s refusal to enforce the removal of the unlawful 7ft barrier erected by The Craighouse Partnership despite the fact it had no planning permission….

Whether you believe in the bungle or bias theory, it is clear the planning system is routinely failing to operate in the public interest when it comes to large off-shore companies.

Most recently we have seen the Craighouse Partnership granted the right to put in a Scheme 3 under the same application – despite having already put in 2 incompetent schemes already. This means the developers are not penalised and do not have to pay for a new application. It also means the public don’t get to see the planning report that would have had to recommend the application be refused after the highly critical reports from Council experts on traffic and flooding, and from Scottish Natural Heritage (available to view on the portal).

It is clear the Craighouse Partnership’s application had little chance of being granted or getting through on appeal. So why are the Council apparently trying to help the developers get an enabling development through, when this is clearly not a true enabling development, rather than refusing the application or forcing them to put in a new application if they want to put in a further scheme? Why are they allowing yet another scheme under the same application – costing the Council more wasted time and money?

This decision appears to have been made by Planning Convenor Ian Perry and officials alone. Why was this decision made in this manner, without transparency or proper explanation to the public? Why wasn’t it put before the development management sub-committee meeting on the 26th Feb where it could have been discussed and considered properly?

Petition of “No Confidence in the City of Edinburgh Planning Department” Launched

A petition of no confidence in the City’s Planning Department has been launched, with Caltongate as a central example.

Thousands of people are signing and calling for investigations into the way planning operates and why bad, unpopular or failed developments are allowed all over our city.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-confidence-in-the-city-of-edinburgh-planning-department

At Friends of Craighouse, we want to be able to support the planning department. We believe that good, trained planners are absolutely essential. The problems of the system are not just due to planning officials but the lack of community power, the erosion of policies through blind and unscrutinised pro-development bias from higher up, the influence of lobbyists, political pressure and the lack of accountability of politicians and other bodies – which all plays a role in why we are seeing policy routinely trounced by private interests of off-shore funds – to the detriment of good development, policy, local communities and the city itself.

It’s too easy to just blame departments or Councils. It’s not easy to stand up against the private interests and pressures that dominate our current political system. However, it’s clear the planning system has lost the trust of the public and is failing to deliver great development for our city’s future and increasingly failing to protect our most special places – our seven hills, our Areas of Great Landscape Value, our World Heritage Site.

We need to give strong support to those who are doing the right thing – backing up policy, creating a system for good development, good architecture and wonderful places to live where development is needed – backed up by the strong protection of our historic fabric, seven hills and Edinburgh’s special places like Craighouse.

So, we urge everyone who is worried about what is happening to our beautiful city and to our special sites like Craighouse, to sign.

We sign, very much with the hope that the planning department will join with citizens to fight for our city, because good planning should be what we all want to see – good planners and communities alike.

email header 3

To remind us what we are fighting for – Craighouse, Site of Great Landscape Value and Edinburgh’s Seventh Hill

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Craighouse Partnership pulls scheme 2 before planning report could be published

daffs and woodland

Daffodils in front of the woodland in Spring

Last week, Scheme 2 was pulled just 3 weeks before the planning committee were to decide on it.

The planning department was inundated with rejections – it is believed even more than last year which was already a record for Edinburgh planning. Thanks to everyone who wrote in – the support for the site was incredible and sent a very clear message in support of those important policies and protections on the site.

The latest application was almost certainly going to be recommended for rejection by the planning department.

If, as planned, the application had been brought to a public decision in March, then a clear ‘no’ would have meant the developers putting in a greatly reduced scheme that concentrated on the listed buildings, or else triggered the sale of the site.

Any new buyer would make sure that they had a clearly thought-out financially viable plan for the site and its buildings that was respectful of the planning protections and the views of the community. We know there are buyers interested and even the Craighouse Partnership admit that converting the existing buildings is profitable.

Instead, it appears that a small inner circle within the council have gone back on their commitment to make a decision in March and have condemned the site to at least 8 more months (probably more) of dereliction threats and arguments about how many millions of pounds of profit Mountgrange, Napier and their army of consultants, agents and lobbyists should be allowed to take out of this protected site by driving a coach and horses through important planning policies and protections.

Whilst it is good news that Scheme 2 is no more – and that is a credit to everyone who wrote in to defend this very special place, the actions of the Council is extremely worrying. The decision to give these incompetent developers a third bite of the cherry – it seems – came from the top.

Why?

This application is the third time the Craighouse Partnership have submitted plans to the Council. These include Scheme 1 (“factually incorrect” “incompetent” and “inaccurate”), the revised enabling case information and further corrections issued to Scheme 1 and then Scheme 2.

If Scheme 1 was factually incorrect and inaccurate – Scheme 2 leaves it in the shade in terms of the poorness of the information, inaccuracy of the accompanying images and plans, and the errors in the figures.

Scottish Natural Heritage highlighted alarming problems with the wildlife information submitted: protected wildlife information that was known to the developer has apparently disappeared from the reports. We want to know why.

The flood prevention team in the council have provided a summary of the very serious deficiencies in the flood prevention strategy (including the plans linking to a drain they have no knowledge of even existing!). It outlines the real risks of flooding caused by more buildings and carparking on the site.

The transport department call for an outright rejection of the application – listing a long list of deficiencies in the application.

In addition to the public – the Cockburn Association have slammed the application – calling for Napier to have to repay the vast public sums (many millions) it received for the site if this application went ahead.  All 3 local Community Councils objected in very strong terms – along with other Community Councils, groups and experts from across the city.

It is clear the Scheme 2 application was an absolute mess and opposition huge.

There is no way the Council could have passed it and there is no way the Craighouse Partnership would have got it on appeal either – as has long been the threat.

The question that remains is: has the Council allowed the failure of this application to be buried and are they enabling the Craighouse Partnership to try and correct the myriad mistakes and incompetencies in order to try and force this or a version of these appalling plans through?

Have the Council gone against their own public commitment that this would go to a decision – in the face of overwhelming criticism from the many expert reports and the  application’s likely rejection by the planning department – to allow the Craighouse Partnership to try and bury the damaging evidence? Has there been any political interference in this decision? Why was this decision not run past the planning committee at their most recent meeting?

The Craighouse Partnership have comprehensively failed to prove there is any enabling development case at Craighouse. They want to make it an “enabling development” because they want to turn a profitable, modest development that would secure both buildings and landscape into a much riskier near £100-million development – that will take millions upon millions out of the site for Mountgrange, Napier and their army of consultants and lobbyists.

We will be going into a lot more detail on the large number of serious errors in this planning application and asking why this small inner circle of people within the council are bending over backwards to help a development consortium who have proved themselves incompetent and untrustworthy 3 times now.

The planning department have now condemned the site to more months of being held to ransom by The Craighouse Partnership – and more dereliction threats.

It is up to us as a community to force the Council to make sure these buildings are being maintained. And to make them answer for their actions.

Who is defending the city’s most precious spaces? And who is defending the protections on those spaces?

We are developing our alternative plan – and will be calling on our politicians to attend a special meeting to tell us what exactly they are doing to help the site – and how they are going to actively work with the community to achieve a real vision for the site.

Can it be done?

Yes.

Posted in Planning process, Political process | 3 Comments

Thanks for the support and an anonymous knitted protest appears on the site

welcome to craighouseJust to say a big thank you to everyone who objected to the excessive plans for Craighouse.

We will be posting again soon with more information on a number of topics that had to take second place over this consultation period.  Before we do, here is a 40 second video of a few of us who went out to find the site had been “Yarn Bombed”, as its termed. What’s does that mean? Well, it’s a form of peaceful, colourful, good-humoured and, well…knitted…protest.

Someone – we have no idea who – had spent a lot of time (and stitches) on a colourful knitted banner to encourage everyone to keep using the site – despite the fact the main entrance has been sealed off and has large and unwelcoming Do Not Enter sign facing the public. Now that intimidating sign has been joined by a cheerful knitted quilt with “Welcome to Craighouse” and a nice knitted flower on it!

We have fought hard to get these Do Not Enter signs taken down and have succeeded on getting them off the green space inside the site – but the impression given from outside the site is that the site is not accessible. However, there IS still pedestrian access at the lodge and Craiglea Place entrances (which is not mentioned on the barricade) and we – like the anonymous Knitted Protestor – would like to encourage everyone to keep using the site as it is totally accessible and open to the public, despite what appearances would suggest.

It was very nice to feel that others were doing what they could to raise awareness of Craighouse and help the site. It gave us a real boost to see it there and here is our wee video of thanks to the anonymous knitted protester – thank you, whoever you are!

(Note – the official deadline for objections is now closed – but you can still write to Councillors and  other politicians. Even though it won’t count as part of the formal process you can also still write to the planning department ccing in politicians to give your view. All letters help. See menu bar and politicians page for contact details.)

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Save Our Beautiful Craighouse Video – and How to Object (Only hours left)

Here is a very short film about Craighouse showing the site, why it’s so loved and some of what’s proposed plus interviews with residents and how to object. Please watch and pass it on – it’s only 4 mins!

The music was free from the net and is called Compatibility and was composed by Michael Kakhia, part of Acoustic Guitar Vol 11, 2011.

Thanks to all the lovely people who helped with this. If you were interviewed and didn’t make the final cut – it’ll be our fault not yours (as clueless amateurs a lot of our footage suffered from the interference of buffeting wind noise, making them slightly less than pleasant to listen to. )

We Have Only Days Left to Object – DEADLINE 16th JAN

Our advice on objections is just to write what you can in your own words – we have put together a basic guide to material planning considerations here and including as many as you can will help your objection to count in planning terms which is really important.

Please remember to include your name and address and the Reference number.

If friends and family put in separate emails – these will count as separate objections (one letter signed by 10 people will be only counted as one objection sadly, whereas putting in separate emails and letters – even if the same text – will count).

Remember a short objection is better than no objection, so if you want to help those who want to object but aren’t sure how to write in terms of material planning considerations you are welcome to copy and paste the paragraph below – or adapt it to your own uses. And add anything else you want to say.

Example Objection:

“Ref: 12/04007/FUL Craighouse Campus

Dear Emma Wilson

I am writing to object in the strongest terms to the proposed newbuild development at Craighouse campus. This is a highly protected and beautiful site and development here is contrary to its designation as an Area of Great Landscape Value, Open Space in a Conservation Area, nationally protected setting of Category-A listed buildings, and as a Local Nature Conservation Site. The whole site is a candidate for Special Landscape Area (SLA) in the new Local Plan which is due to be adopted in a few years.

This site is not designated for development in the Edinburgh Local Plan and is indeed contrary to the Edinburgh and Lothians Structure Plan, the Edinburgh City Local Plan, National Planning Policies and local policy documents.

The newbuild is totally out of keeping with the conservation area character and involve a substantial loss of protected woodland and Open Space and amenity. It spoils the setting of the Listed Buildings – which is protected by national policy and spoils views. The 6-7 storey apartment blocks will ruin the spectacular vistas and views in and out of the site,  for which the site is famous, and will also ruin the setting of Category-A listed Old Craig  which is protected by national policy. It will also destroy the green space where children play football. The other development sites will ruin the setting of Category-A Listed Buildings, spoil views from Blackford hill and the north and spoil the natural feel through to the Right of Way on what is a loved nature site and protected green site.

The extra cars, traffic and newbuild properties will destroy the natural feel of the site as well as putting an untenable strain on local roads and schools, which are already at capacity.   All new development is contrary to the protections on this site and 7 development areas on this protected site is clearly very excessive. There is no justification for destroying habitat and chopping down over 80 protected trees on a site that is supposed to be a Local Nature Conservation Site, Habitat of European and National Protected Species. I don’t accept that this public loss and the overturning of so many policies and protections is justified just for a developer to make extra profits. This  would create a very unwelcome and worrying precedent for other protected and special sites in the city.”

[ADD YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS]

Then email to emma.wilson@edinburgh.gov.uk

You may also write snail mail or use the planning portal: address and instructions are on this link along with more advice and information on How to Object : http://friendsofcraighouse.com/2012/11/22/how-to-make-your-objection/

Please don’t let this:

beautiful old craig2

Turn into this:

massive apartment blocksnapierfill

Craighouse is a special site. It is one of only 8 Areas of Great Landscape Value in the whole Edinburgh area – along with the Hermitage of Braid, Blackford Hill, Arthur’s Seat and the Botanical Gardens. Please object for the sake of Craighouse, the seven hills and for the special places and landscapes of Edinburgh.

Thanks so much!

http://friendsofcraighouse.com/2013/12/30/overview-of-scheme-two-application/

http://friendsofcraighouse.com/2012/11/22/how-to-make-your-objection/

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Overview of Scheme Two Application

We hope you all had a very nice and relaxing Christmas.

We have put together this post to give you an idea of the new plans and to encourage you to object to the increased number of apartments, blocks and cars that will be put over this Area of Great Landscape Value. We have also updated our How to Object page – please go here to help save this beautiful protected site.

We have been working on getting some pictures – placing the architects’ drawings in the landscape so you can get a sense of the sheer scale of some of these buildings. These mock-ups are our best attempt – the application itself is very poor and contains few  renders. You will see some images in the documents submitted in the planning application, but they are poor quality and not very accurate with some of the buildings in the wrong place and usually hidden behind trees. We do not understand why planning is allowing such a poor application to continue when this is a Major Application on a Highly protected and sensitive site.

massive apartment blocks

Click to view

west craig 3 view of napier from side2  North Craig     kings craig 2 layer

Craigleaplace 3d Craiglea 2 Clouston 3d c-s

OVERVIEW

The second scheme is significantly larger than the last one

•    There are 7 development areas
•    89 newbuild properties has gone up to 125
•    153 properties (new and old) has increased to 189
•    The total amount of newbuild is significantly larger in square footage than the last one – and is significantly more than all the listed buildings put together. This means more people, properties, cars, traffic and pressure on schools and local infrastructure as well as a significant urban impact on this Area of Great Landscape Value and Nature site which is supposed to be one of the most sensitive and protected sites in the city.
•    There will be significantly more cars on the site – there are 90 underground carparking spaces proposed and over 200 ground-level parking spaces over the site.
•    More trees will be chopped down – with over 80 trees (all of which are protected on this site) being taken out – mostly in the woodland.

Massive Apartment Blocks near Old Craig destroying setting, woodland and views

Two enormous apartment blocks – “Burton” and “Napier” – will dominate the site near Old Craig  taking out green space and woodland here round Old Craig and the entrance area.

massive apartment blocks3 massive apartment blocks5

view of napier from side2

This is the poor quality image from the application showing only part of the massive development above. But you can still can see the very large scale of “Napier” on the right  which is an enormous and high building at 6/7 storeys in comparison to the ant-like people next to it. You can also tell it is very severe and blocky in style

These are 5-7 storeys tall and these two massive buildings will contain 74 properties between them – so this is really a very large development here. It will seriously affect the beautiful views from the orchard area and will dwarf poor Old Craig – the oldest building on the site, whose setting is supposed to be protected by national policy. The illustration above should give you a sense of the style and scale. You can see that there is a parapet at the top which anticipates looking out over the tree-line.

There is underground carparking for these (which is very expensive) but only 1 parking space per flat. There is significant overground parking elsewhere on the site with over 200 ground-level carparking spaces – but the number of spaces has not taken any account of the increase in properties.

footballarea

Here is just part of the beautiful green space that would disappear under one of the buildings here,  “Napier”

“Clouston”clouston

There is a large block on the top of the hill replacing the 8 storey tower. It is lower but still extremely high at 6 storeys and also significantly bigger than before containing 16 apartments in this large block.  As you can see it dominates over the existing villas here.

Craiglea Place

Craiglea manor2There are very high new houses (4 and 5 storey) at the end of Craiglea Place: “Craiglea Manor” it’s called – we’re not sure why. This block is very tall compared to the older buildings here and -again – dwarfs their older neighbours. Apart from the overwhelming and out of keeping nature of this block next to the older terrace here – there is a big worry about having this extension with parking etc on what is a rural-style lane and Right of Way up to the hill. We have always been worried about roads and cars being put here as it is a small jump to having roads extended up the hill at this point – which would threaten the orchard again.  Trees will be chopped down to accommodate these and the green space in front is all becoming carpark.

Craigleaplace 3d

2 Large Blocks in the Woodland – “King’s Craig” and “West Craig”

kings craig 2 layer

Just a part of the massive building here taking out woodland and greenspace and spoiling the beautiful setting of the listed buildings. It will be surrounded by carpark and road

Two extremely large similar-styled 4 and 5 storey blocks are proposed for the woodland opposite New Craig and in the woodland opposite Queens Craig. These will also have gardens out the back – taking out more woodland here. There will be significant removal of trees here – all of which are supposed to be protected and the habitats of protected species would be directly built over as well as the setting of New Craig and Queens Craig being spoiled. There is significant roads and parking here too which we have not been able to include in the  pictures for you.

daffs and woodland

The beautiful protected setting that will be destroyed, built over and tarmaced by the King’s Craig development. Plus a large amount of woodland behind will be taken out also

“Kings Craig”: A large block in the woodland. We haven’t yet got a photo large enough to fit this whole  block in, so it’s larger than above.  This picture below shows you the area presently – the beautiful protected setting of the listed buildings that will be destroyed by King’s Craig. This whole area here will be destroyed by this very large building plus tarmaced carparking and roads -  a substantial amount of the woodland behind is being destroyed also.

west craig 3

West craig is also a very large build – 4 or 5 storeys opposite 2 storey Queens Craig. It is hard to show you the full impact of these but all this area becomes carpark and substantial amounts of the woodland is taken out.

West Craig: A block in the woodland opposite Queens Craig – West Craig is similar looking to Kings Craig. It is in the woodland opposite Queens Craig, which will be surrounded by car parks as well as this block.

Below is a picture of the beautiful protected setting of the listed buildings in front of the woodland – all this -and large parts of the woodland on the right would be destroyed.

Overlooking Meadowspot – long 3-storey Terrace

North craig 2A long line of 3 storey terraced houses is proposed for the front of New Craig where there is woodland presently overlooking Meadowspot. There have been particular concerns here because of the flooding down the hill – Meadowspot gardens already get very water-logged according to reports I’ve received. Obviously flooding in Balcarres and Craighouse Gardens as well as Meadowspot continues to be a big concern for many local people and the development as a whole due to increased water run-off from carparks and newbuild.

Again, there are a lot of trees to be cut down in this area and you can see with the number of windows in these houses that they are not expected to be obscured by trees and will be very visible here. We apologise that this picture is rather poor – it is the best we could do with the terrible illustrations provided by the application. Perhaps you can see from the illustration just how poor much of the material we have to work with from the application really is. It is worth noting with these the number of windows. People in Meadowspot were promised these houses were to have no views (and therefore would not harm the woodland), yet the significant amount of front windows coupled with the large amount of tree removals in this area suggests otherwise.

north craig no trees

Poor information on these in the application but they are substantial 3-storey buildings and a lot of trees are being chopped down in this area

The Development and Application

All in all the amount of newbuild is far greater than the old build – and this is a great concern as it means the majority of this development is newbuild – rather than a development centred predominantly on the listed buildings. This adds considerable risk of failure to the project as well as spoiling the site.

Phasing shows majority of newbuild plus easy and lucrative villas done first

The schedule shows that phase one includes the majority of the newbuid (Napier, Burton, Clouston and Craiglea – 94 newbuild properties in all) without having to touch the biggest and most difficult of the listed buildings – New Craig.  This rings alarm bells for us. At Quartermile, there has been a lot of newbuild – the site has been packed out in fact -and yet the old historic buildings remain largely untouched and some have even been demolished. There is little incentive to finish New Craig once the newbuild has been built. That’s if Mountgrange have any interest in the reality of the development at all rather than just selling site on with large amounts of planning permission.

What else can we tell you from this application?

All in all, this application appears to be very little to do with saving listed buildings. Indeed, as usual, the application is full of threats about how the listed buildings will go derelict – and the threat of the old consent for the Creative Industries building being enacted if they don’t get their way. This is outrageous considering the promises of planning and William Gray Muir that this old consent had no bearing on the planning application. But then they said this about the buildings being put on the Buildings at Risk Register too (on William Gray Muir’s instigation). Yet we know the BARR was used to pressure Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government in recent meetings and is constantly referred to in the planning application.

The new application’s argument is all about wanting more profit.

Application full of errors

The application itself seems rushed and is full of errors (see end of post for just some examples). This may seem surprising after a year of waiting – but perhaps not as Mountgrange seems to have invested more time and effort lobbying the Scottish Government this summer – meeting with Minister John Swinney and having unminuted meetings with Scottish Government planners  rather than putting in a reasonable and detailed application. We have yet to find out what further meetings with Ministers and government planners took place after June this year. The Scottish Government – again – have failed to answer our Freedom of Information within the statutory 20 days.

Finance

We are compiling a very detailed analysis of the figures that have been released. At the moment this analysis runs to a 15-page report that we are willing to make available to our members if you might find that useful or have a finance background. We will be submitting this to the planning department.

Our report is still to be fully completed but I can tell you the following:

The figures show the listed buildings are profitable without newbuild: but the Craighouse Partnership want more profit – 20% of the entire scheme.

The whole development will cost – the Craighouse Partnership claim – c. £80million (and sold for £96million). Yet the conversion costs of the listed buildings is less than a quarter of this.

So what is the rest to be spent on?

£9 million pounds is allocated for consultants fees alone ( that’s on top of the millions of pounds profit the Craighouse Partnership is looking to make).

More millions of pounds are allocated for infrastructure (£4.6million in total) -on  roads, electricity etc. And yet this cost – again – should mainly be associated with the newbuild not the listed buildings which have existing infrastructure. Even allowing for upgrading the infrastructure to the listed buildings – it would be a fraction of these incredible costs.

£1 million is allocated for planning process  Really? How many more failed and unacceptable planning applications are they anticipating? What is this being spent on – more lobbying?

There is no affordable housing – either on or off site. None at all. This, despite all the claims made that there would be during the consultation process with the public.

Inaccuracies, nonsense sales estimates and tardis-like buildings

There are more strange aspects to this application – according to the figures, the site is instantly more profitable if you remove “Burton” – one of the ugly vast apartment blocks near Old Craig pictured above. If this is really the case – there is no justification for it to be built at all.

The newbuild sales price estimates in the application are vastly higher than the old build sales’ price estimates. The newbuild is priced at up to 34% higher than average prices in Morningside – whilst the converted old build (despite being large apartments with historic interiors and superb views) is priced lower than average for the area. This is simply not credible.

They are trying to claim high development values for  some of the listed buildings on the site (such as the villas) whilst simultaneously claiming a developer would lose money by developing them. This – again – shows a serious error in the numbers. The valuation should reflect the profit that can be made by developing – so the numbers here are inconsistent and do not match up. The Council would be in serious error accepting this.

Two of the listed buildings are apparently tardises, according to this application, being far larger on the inside than on the outside! We assume this is just more error-making on the part of the Craighouse Partnership – but adds more inaccuracy to this messy application and does not inspire confidence.

There are a whole series of other errors that make the application hard to follow and undermines the credibility of this application:

  • North, South, East and West are routinely mixed up on the plans.
  • The masterplan for Kings Craig and West Craig have the wrong buildings on them.
  • The number of cars and houses have increased significantly – yet the number of “trips” that people are estimated to make have dropped considerably. (An attempt to try to make the traffic impact appear less than it will be?)
  • They have put in an underground carpark with no plans for it – is this a mistake, incompetence or oversight?
  • Then there is the inconvenient fact that the listed building plans in the planning application don’t even match the listed building plans in the Listed Building consent! What message does this give us about the claims that this development is about the listed buildings?

This is the second time they’ve put in a messy application full of errors for what is a Major Application on a Highly Protected Site. What do we make of this? Are they serious about this development? Or is this simply about getting permission for substantial amounts of newbuild through planning?

We are very worried about this application – both what is there and what has been forgotten or ignored. We cannot see that this is a credible or competent application.

It is very important people object if we don’t want to see our beautiful hill left a mess – and if we want to preserve both the landscape and the historic buildings of what should be a highly protected site and not set a terrible precedent for our other Areas of Great Landscape Value, historic sites and the rest of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills.

Please do all you can to spread the word – and email to object. Details how is on our How to Object page.

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Have a Great Christmas – see you in a few days

christmascardcraighouseWishing all of you a lovely day and a good relax (plus mincepies, lots of old repeats on TV and a glass or three of wine). We’re taking a day or two off but will be back very soon with more information and analysis. In the meantime we wanted to  wish you a very Merry Christmas with this lovely pic of Old Craig in the snow.

Have a wonderful time, everyone, and do check the site in a few days. Merry Christmas!

 

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New Craighouse Plans are in: Deadline 16th Jan for Objections

The new proposals: 2 of the 7 proposed new blocks

The new proposals: 2 of the 7 proposed new blocks

There are a new set of plans on the planning portal for Craighouse. You can see them here. We are still working through them. There are a lot of holes in what they present, and very few pictures from the Craighouse Partnership that can give you a good idea of the scale or impact on the views into and out of the site. This is really not acceptable for such a major application on such a beautiful, sensitive site that is protected as being in a Conservation Area and one of only eight Areas of Great Landscape Value in the whole Edinburgh area. We are working on analysis and also images that show properly the scale and siting of the buildings proposed. In the meantime, check out our facebook page here.

The quick summary so far is: all the newbuild is now red modern apartment blocks or houses in the same style. The Grove is now off the scheme. However, Scheme 2 does not actually reduce the amount of newbuild – they are just building high and big instead. In fact, the newbuild square footage has increased (more than the listed buildings on the site), the number of dwellings has increased and the amount of people and traffic will also increase.

They are also chopping down MORE trees than before.

Above is a picture of the two massive 5-storey buildings proposed for the green space and woodland around Old Craig near the entrance to the site – ruining the setting of this historic building and also the stunning views (see picture above). We think they look like monoliths – others are commenting to us that they think they look like factories or an industrial estate.

The 8 storey tower  where the LRC is presently is slightly reduced in height over Scheme 1, but has become an even larger building (modern red apartment block) instead. Higher and bigger buildings are at Craiglea Place and further large blocks are around the listed buildings – taking out the green space and woodland there. The newbuild is in 7 development areas.

Craighouse Partnership admits converting listed buildings is profitable without newbuild

The Craighouse Partnership have finally admitted – after two years – that converting the listed buildings alone is profitable and, in the cases of some of them, very profitable. But they are justifying this scheme by their demands for more profit. We are currently analysing the figures and so-called “enabling development case” in huge amounts of detail and will update you as soon as we can on that. We are working hard at the moment to read all the new documents in full which are on the portal now. Thanks for your patience!

Poor Quality of the Information Submitted

What we are most surprised about is the poor quality of the application. Maybe we shouldn’t be after the mess of the application last year. But this new submission has to be one of the most sketchy and unsatisfactory we’ve seen, without proper images or renders to give a proper sense of the scale and mass of these huge buildings or the effect they will have on the views – internal or external, woodland or settings. It is also full of errors. We are surprised such a poor application should be allowed to continue through the system.

OBJECTIONS: NE W DEADLINE 16th Jan 2014

Firstly, whilst planning says objections to the scheme 1 still officially stand, we do not know whether there will be an attempt to discount these now there is a new scheme, so it is really important to object again to the scheme 2.

We will be providing advice and guidance to help you produce an objection that covers all the issues you care about and will have an impact on the decision makers. In the meantime the instructions for objecting are the same as below as is the planning number: 12/04007/FUL is the one for the new-build.

The deadline is 16th January 2014, so you may want to take a bit of time to study the plans and wait for our detailed analysis which we will post to the website as soon as we can.

HOW TO OBJECT

It’s not hard to object – the easiest is probably to just drop a quick email to Emma Wilson saying you object, your name and address and quoting Ref: 12/04007/FUL:

Or else e.robertson@edinburgh.gov.uk

Otherwise:

  • Write to: Head of Planning, Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street
    EH8 8BG
  • Use the Edinburgh Planning Portal online at: https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk  . Find Simple Search  put in the application number: 12/04007/FUL and it will come up. Click on “log in” and follow instructions and write your comments.

[Remember: put the planning reference no: 12/04007/FUL  address: Napier Campus  Craighouse  as well as your name, address and the date.  The portal will not take comments of more than 2000 characters and it can time out if you take too long, so we suggest writing your objection first and then copying and pasting. The portal can have gremlins so please be persistent or email otherwise.]

WHAT TO WRITE

Just express your opinion in your own words on why you object. If you can include material planning considerations – it will have more power in planning terms. We will be compiling these in more detail and posting them very soon but destruction of Open Space in a Conservation Area and the ruining of an Area of Great Landscape Value, ruining of the settings of Category-A listed buildings and spoiling of views along with the increase of traffic, pressure on schooling and floodrisk are all material. As is the fact this does not properly conform as an enabling development case. There are many more but if you want to keep it simple you can copy and paste the statement below:

SIMPLE OBJECTION

Example of a simple objection:

‘I object to the development at Craighouse (12/04007/FUL). The newbuild development goes against planning policy – destroying Open Space in a Conservation Area, spoiling the views and the character of this Area of Great Landscape Value, destroying habitat in a Local Nature Conservation Site and it ruins the setting of the Category A listed buildings. It will add unacceptable pressure to local roads and schooling and add to the risk of flooding in Meadowspot and Balcarres St. It is against The Edinburgh Local Plan.
[INCLUDE NAME AND ADDRESS]‘

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Mountgrange Meets Minister: Demands Trump Treatment

In June, we put in a FOI request to ask what meetings the Scottish Government have had with members of the Craighouse Partnership.

Despite the fact it should take them 20 days in law, over 4 months later the Scottish Government had missed the deadline (several times) and the appeal deadline, holding up our FOI request for over 91 days. So, we put in a complaint to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

On Monday afternoon, we received a partial release of the FOI information from the Scottish Government. The information we have been sent is not complete and key minutes and reports are missing along with another 2 documents they admit to withholding. Still no reasons given for the delay or for many of the documents being missing.

However, what we can tell you maybe explains some of the long delay we’ve all been experiencing at Craighouse waiting for the outcome of the planning application for the last 11 months.

It seems that whilst continuing to sign and fail to meet deadlines for processing agreements and telling the Council they are working on a scheme 2, Mountgrange and other members of the Craighouse Partnership have been working behind the scenes to try to get the Scottish Government to force the application through against any potential refusal by the planners or the Council – in a similar scenario to what happened over the Trump golf course.

We can now confirm that Manish Chande, one of the two partners of Mountgrange and other members of the Craighouse Partnership met with Minister John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, specifically about Craighouse.

Manish Chande was also granted meetings with the Scottish Government planners.

These meetings were arranged by Invicta PA – Mountgrange’s lobbyist – despite the fact that parliamentary rules say that you should not be given greater access to MSPs by employing a commercial lobbyist. Equal access should be given to the community, yet none of the people above who met with Chande have met with the community, including ministers and Historic Scotland.

We also know they were seeking a meeting with Minister Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and Minister Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning in the Scottish Government.

Meeting between the Craighouse Partnership and Historic Scotland

Initially, Manish Chande was looking for a meeting with John Swinney in March. This request was turned down and, instead, Chande met with Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage Management at Historic Scotland.  We have the note from this meeting which is relevant to what happens next.

Before she worked for Historic Scotland, Cummins worked for the Council planning department and was  in charge of the team dealing with city centres and Listed Buildings Consents  when the Council passed the demolition of  listed buildings in and around the Old Town for Mountgrange’s last – disastrous – failed Caltongate scheme  -  triggering a UNESCO investigation and  still a derelict problem site many years later.

The documents show her meeting Manish Chande, who had come up from London,  and the rest of the Craighouse Partnership without the Historic Scotland officers in charge of the case and without the Council present.

The note from the meeting appears to show Mountgrange putting pressure on Historic Scotland to push the Council to accept their enabling development case. At first, Barbara Cummins seems circumspect, suggesting that the developers should remove elements of the scheme and go back to the Council. However, it is decided that:

“HS [Historic Scotland] to consider what its role is and give some steer as to enabling case, for example use of RICS advice re site value (Action BC [Barbara Cummins] to consider if further advice can be provided to CEC)”

(Square brackets ours.)

Remember, an enabling development needs the site to be of near to or no value as it is seen as the equivalent of a public subsidy – not a mechanism for developer to make extra profits for themselves.

It is interesting to note here that Mountgrange obviously don’t want the site’s value to be looked at too closely in relation to the enabling development case.

“Mountgrange concerned re this case and the fact the seller, as a further education institution, will already have undergone due diligence in establishing site value, this is now being questioned by local planning authority.”

Mountgrange Push Idea of Notification Direction

The note then shows the Craighouse Partnership pushing the idea of a Notification Direction.

A Notification Direction would mean that the ministers are stating their intention to “call in” an application before a Council is given the chance to make a decision. It is not usually used for cases where a Council is likely to refuse an application. The most high-profile case where a similar situation happened would be the Trump golfcourse development in Aberdeen, where it was called in and granted against the Council. And we all know how that ended.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/donald-trump-fails-to-deliver-on-golf-resort-jobs-pledge-8693854.html

The reason Mountgrange gives for Historic Scotland to interfere is the Buildings at Risk Register (BARR) and National Performance Indicators (NPI).

The note says Mountgrange say:

“If CEC minded to refuse, given NPI to reduce numbers of A listed buildings at risk, would they intervene to call in the application? (Action BC to further consider)”

Numbers of Category A buildings on the Buildings at Risk Register is a National Performance Indicator – or a target – for Historic Scotland, so they are under a lot of pressure to get them off the register.

However, as the Friends found out, it was the Craighouse Partnership who asked for the buildings to be put on the BARR in the first place! (More on this here). Historic Scotland should not allow a tool that was designed to help buildings with no options to be used to exploit a protected site for large profits when it had received many other bids.

Mountgrange also complain about our local MSP, Jim Eadie who has supported the local community in wanting the protections on the site and planning policy to be upheld:

“Mountgrange referenced political interest in site and fact that local MSP, Jim Eadie, had stated he supported the opposition to the scheme – seen as unhelpful in advance of full consideration”

What happened next

As a result of this meeting, Barbara Cummins of Historic Scotland agreed to consider Notification Directions.

Invicta PA – the developers’ lobbyists – then lobby to get meetings for Chande with Scottish Ministers again.

Mountgrange Meets the Minister John Swinney in May.

The minister receives a briefing document about Craighouse beforehand – written by Barbara Cummins. This is sent to a long list of senior figures, including the First Minister.
The briefing paper is poor and inaccurate and contradicts a lot of the note of the March meeting. For example, the briefing paper:

•    states the  proposed development is of high quality (in March Barbara Cummins expressed concern that “the economics are driving the development at the expense of a good quality outcomes”)

•    fails to mention the site is an Area of Great Landscape Value, Local Biodiversity Site and also one of Edinburgh’s seven hills

•    fails to mention the setting of the Category A listed buildings are nationally protected by planning policy.

•    states that Historic Scotland backs the enabling case – despite the fact that they did not say this in the note from March.

It is also stated that the Council have agreed to the enabling case – yet if this was the case, then why were Mountgrange trying to get the ministers to interfere and override the Council through a Notification Direction?

The Craighouse Partnership and the Minister
The minutes from the meeting with John Swinney are conspicuously absent from the FOI release sent to us, with no explanation of why they have been withheld. However, the briefing document outlines what was to be covered by the meeting. What is most surprising is the purpose and the particular relation to Craighouse – a live planning application.

“Purpose of meeting:
 Mr Chande has requested the meeting to discuss property development in Scotland
 It is expected Mr Chande will raise the handling of Major Applications, in particular the Craighouse Site in Edinburgh “

In addition to John Swinney, attending the meeting were:
•    Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage Management, Historic Scotland
•    Manish Chande, Mountgrange
•    William Gray Muir, Sundial Properties

Not having the minutes, we don’t know what was said – and certainly do not know John Swinney’s response. But we do know that Notification Directions formed a large part of the Appendix document of the briefing which shows Mountgrange’s intention to raise this.

As you will see from this extract, it seems as though the briefing document is now pushing Mountgrange’s agenda, as outlined in March. You will note the reason given for all of this – National Performance Indicators – as pushed to Barbara Cummins in the March meeting.

“The developers have outlined their concerns that natural environment considerations might be given undue weight by the council and lead to a refusal without full consideration of the future of these nationally important listed buildings. They have asked us what role Scottish Ministers might take to ensure that any decision taken gives due weight to the nationally designated heritage assets. We have briefed the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, that we are investigating the potential use of a Notification Direction, should we feel this is appropriate.”

“With the national performance indicator to reduce the number of A-listed Buildings at Risk in mind, we believe the Craighouse Campus case raises issues of national significance where Ministers may also wish to have the same degree of oversight as proposed at Hyndford Quarry. Should the local authority be minded to refuse consent it may, therefore, be appropriate for Scottish Ministers to review their reasons for this decision to ensure that adequate weight was given to securing the sustainable reuse of the A-listed buildings on the site, and to intervene (potentially via call-in) if this is felt not to be the case. It would be highly unusual for Ministers to intervene were a local authority minded to refuse planning permission. As there are both applications for planning permission and listed building consent the case also raises cross portfolio issues with the Minister for Local Government and Planning. The question of what options may be open to and appropriate for Ministers, therefore, requires further examination.”

Are Historic Scotland – due to targets – ignoring their duty to protect the nationally important setting of these buildings – and allowing themselves to be used as a tool by the developers to get excessive newbuild on a protected site of Great Landscape Value?

Questions

Was John Swinney badly briefed?

Was he informed that the site was an Area of Great Landscape Value and on Edinburgh’s seventh hill? (No mention of either in the briefing document.)

Has John Swinney been informed since that the Craighouse Partnership allowed water to run down Bevan House for 9 days?

Was John Swinney told that it was the Craighouse Partnership who asked for the buildings to be put on the Buildings at Risk Register in the first place?

Was he aware Historic Scotland had said No to building on the carpark and adjacent green space to all the bidders  before Mountgrange bid for the site?

Why should Mountgrange be given different and privileged treatment to all the other bidders for the site?

Conclusion
We cannot know what the response of John Swinney or any other minister has been. We very much hope that they have resisted the demands to treat Craighouse as another Trump golfcourse. It is certainly disappointing that  the Craighouse Partnership have been having meetings with Ministers specifically lobbying about Craighouse – unchallenged – in the middle of a live planning application, before the Council has made a decision. It is breath-taking that the Craighouse Partnership have been trying to side-step policy, democracy, and the Council itself in this blatant manner.

We hope that ministers don’t fall for this and have respect for the policies and plans that are there to protect Scotland’s precious spaces.

We are still battling to get proper and complete information from our FOI request and the case will now been passed to the Information Commissioner for Scotland.

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