The Cockburn Association have added their voice to the growing opposition to the Craighouse Partnership’s plans to build 116 new houses over protected green space and some of the most beautiful and loved parts of the landscape at Craighouse.
In a letter to William Gray Muir, Director of Sundial Properties – part of The Craighouse Partnership, the Cockburn’s director, Marion Williams writes:
There is no doubt that the Craighouse Campus is one of the most significant developments within Edinburgh due to the quality of the existing architecture, its setting, and position on one of the city’s seven hills.
The importance of the amenity of the site to the city is best appreciated along the Public Right of Way on the southern boundary. On this route to the summit of Easter Craiglockhart Hill the public are passing between the open land of the Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Course to the south and the open parkland to the north and it retains a continuity of recreational landscape. The path has views south to the Pentlands and spectacular views to the north east across the city to Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle; the design of the boundary wall allows people to stop, sit and enjoy these views. The view afforded to the city centre from this vantage point is better than that from the summit of Easter Craiglockhart Hill.
The open park and wooded hill are also the setting for the category A-listed former Royal Edinburgh Asylum by Sydney Mitchell & Wilson architects. The parkland was created as the setting of the Asylum as is clear from the route of the paths established round the perimeter, whether for access or for patients to walk. Building on the south or east of the open grass would change the historic setting to an urban character when it should remain semi-natural.
The letter carefully outlines the designations on the site that have come into being since 1992 and that clearly override the Partnership’s attempts to claim any continuing relevance of the 1992 brief:
While we appreciate the City of Edinburgh Council had marked the south of the Campus for development in 1992 subsequent designations as Open Space and an Area of Great Landscape Value should now predicate against development and the pending Special Landscape Area designation reinforces this. The latter landscape designation acknowledges the importance of the setting of the former asylum, as does the Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal. We also note that the Edinburgh Skyline Study identifies Easter Craiglockhart Hill as a Key view to the Castle (S4b) which cannot be seen from the summit but from the open area to the south of the campus.
The letter concludes that any building on the South of the site including the orchard/parkland would be damaging and The Craighouse Partnership is advised that any development here would likely meet the opposition of the Cockburn Association.
“In light of the recognised high quality views across, within and out of the site, and from Blackford Hill to Easter Craiglockhart Hill the Association is strongly of the opinion that any building on the south of the site would damage these existing views…We would be likely to oppose such development were it to be submitted for planning permission in our role as a civic organization entrusted with preserving the high quality of Edinburgh’s landscape and amenity spaces.”
In addition, Williams’ letter says the development proposed around the carpark will have a significant impact upon views of the historic buildings from the gate lodge and the letter makes it clear that the Cockburn remains to be convinced of the Partnership’s case for enabling development – the letter noting that whilst “The restoration of the former asylum buildings is welcomed…the Association remains to be convinced of the necessity of such extensive enabling development”.
The Cockburn Association is the latest of a long line of organisations and individuals lining up in opposition to the proposals including Morningside Community Council and Merchiston Community Council (click to read their statements), MSP Jim Eadie, MSP Alison Johnstone, MP Ian Murray and a petition of over 5000 local people who want to preserve the green space and woodland from newbuild development.