Council elections: 4th May. Reminder of how councillors voted

The Council elections are coming up on 4th May (remember to register to vote).

These local elections will elect people who will represent all of us in our communities going forward. Whilst national politics dominate the headlines, these are not the issues that will be affected by this election. Instead, it will affect our schools, roads, parks, environment, transport. And one of the major things that Edinburgh Council has responsibility for: planning.

The Friends of Craighouse and the people all across Edinburgh who supported the site were hugely disappointed when the planning committee voted in contravention of the numerous planning policies and protections on the site to push through inappropriate and excessive development on Craighouse.

Whilst our local Councillors of all stripes spoke up for us – a block vote of all the Conservatives on the planning committee and many of the Labour Councillors did the most damage. We are not a party political campaign and there are very involved members who support every different party at a national level. However, it’s important for people to know how Councillors voted on this issue as it set precedent for the whole city.

With many Morningside and Craiglockhart Councillors who supported the community (including Paul Godzik, Mark McInnes and Andrew Burns) all standing down at this election, it’s important for Craighouse and if people want to protect other important green spaces such as the Hermitage and Midmar Paddock, to elect Councillors who have a good track record on these issues.

It’s disappointing to see that the Conservatives have chosen as a candidate the ex editor of the Scotsman and Evening News, John McLellan, who used his journalistic platform to support the money-losing developments at Quartermile, Caltongate, along with running article after article pushing over-development at Craighouse. Shying away from his local area, he is running instead in Duddingston, ominously declaring his interest in getting involved in planning matters on the Council in this article in the Evening News.

If you would like a reminder of which Councillors sealed the fate of Craighouse and who voted through unjustified amounts of over-development on a protected site for an offshore investment fund against thousands of objections, here it is:

CouncillorsVote2.jpgVoted with the community: Nigel Bagshaw (Green), Maureen Child (Labour), Sandy Howat (SNP), Deirdre Brock (SNP), Ronnie Cairns (SNP), Adam McVey (SNP)

Voted Against the Community for Over-development of Craighouse: Cameron Rose (Conservative), Joanna Mowat (Conserative), Dominic Heslop (Conservative), Ian Perry (Labour), Eric Milligan (Labour – standing down), Angela Blacklock (Labour), Keith Robson (Labour), Frank Ross (SNP), Dennis Dixon (SNP)

We are not a party-political campaign with very involved members who actively support each of the above parties and the Liberal Democrats. However, it’s important people know how Council members vote on issues that affect their areas. You may also remember that some local councillors supported the community at the hearing, but their party colleagues voted the other way. Planning committee hearings are not supposed to divide along party lines.

Update on the development

The development has now been taken over by the Quartermile developers, who are asking for yet more changes:

They are also applying for building warrants, but we see no sign of applications for New Craig, the large listed building that all this was supposed to save.

Based on their applications for building warrants, it looks like they will be doing some of the newbuild first plus some small listed buildings – the ones that are the most profitable and therefore not really part of the “Enabling Development”. There is no sign of applications for the biggest building on the site that this “Enabling Development” was supposed to be about – listed building New Craig.

The developers have some slow-to-update news on the development here: http://www.craighouse-edinburgh.com/news.html

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Edinburgh Rugby moving to Myreside with hardly any travel plan in place

Edinburgh Rugby have submitted a planning application to move their matches to the Watsons ground on Myreside, with 4,500 spectators expected. The deadline for comments is Friday 4th November. A blog by a group objecting to the proposals has started here.

Here is a picture from the proposals:

edinburghrugby-aerial

The planning application is available at this link: https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=OEBLLGEWKCB00

If you click on the link above, you can read the documents and submit comments or objections (see bottom of this post for a sample objection and instructions).

It is not clear how 4,500 spectators can get to Myreside. There isn’t much public transport and very little parking (just 26 spaces on the picture above). The planning application is a little vague on transport, apart from park-and ride for 600 cars, although their own survey of spectators says less than 1% of people expect to use it.

Edinburgh Rugby provide a survey of their own spectators saying how many people expect to come by driving their own car to the stadium (35%, or 1,575 cars if there are 4,500 spectators) and how many expect to use the park-and-ride (7 out of 817 people, or 38 drivers out of 4,500 spectators). 34% planned on coming by bus, or 1,530 people out of 4,500 spectators) but there is only one bus that goes past the ground: the 38, with a few more such as the 23 and 27 going reasonably nearby. This also ignores the fact that there is a hospital right next to the site, with major construction and roadworks still on-going.

Here are the transport proposals from the planning application:

Transport Proposals
A number of transport proposals would be implemented to support the relocation as follows:

  • A bus Park & Ride facility at Edinburgh Napier University Craiglockhart campus for the use of Edinburgh Rugby season ticket holders. This will provide approximately 200 parking spaces;
  • A bus Park & Ride facility at BT Murrayfield stadium for the exclusive use of Edinburgh Rugby spectators, this will accommodate approximately 400 parking spaces;
  • Parking at the nearby Edinburgh Clinic on Colinton Road for corporate hospitality (approximately 50 spaces);
  • Ongoing discussions with local taxi firms with respect to potential discounted fares;
  • Ongoing discussions with Lothian Buses on opportunities;
  • A Travel Plan leaflet available to supporters providing options on travel choice;
  • Consideration of personalised travel planning for supporters;
  • Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders on streets surrounding the stadium to control on-street parking and to maintain local access and safety during matches.

It is very hard for us to see how this is a workable travel plan for the site.

Here is a map of the proposals:

edinburghrugby-map

And here is another image:

edinburghrugy-ground

If you want to object, here is a template objection. You can email it to the case officer: jennifer.zochowska@edinburgh.gov.uk or you can register directly on the planning portal.

Planning application ref: 16/04715/FUL
put your name and address

Edinburgh Rugby anticipates crowds of between 4500 and 5500 people (this is contrary to Local development Plan policy TRA1). The proposal details parking solutions for only 600 vehicles across two locations. The park and ride solution for 200 cars at Edinburgh Napier University Craiglockhart campus is proposed for season
ticket holders use only. A third site is for 50 corporate hospitality guests only. The proposal offers no real alternative to the use of cars. This is contrary to Local Development Plan DES 7.

The proposal requires the post-match closure of Myreside Road, a busy residential street which provides access to a hospital and is a main artery for buses and emergency ambulances in the west of the city.

It will take much longer than the stated 15 minutes to clear the anticipated 5,500 supporters at the end of each match – particularly where it is anticipated that the majority of supporters will not be traveling by car.

The disruption caused by noise and traffic for the five hours associated with each home game will have a materially detrimental effect on the living conditions of nearby residents. This is contrary to Local Development Plan HOU7.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In Memory

dougie We are very sad to let you know that Friends of Craighouse member, supporter and friend, Douglas Hamilton, has died.

A tireless champion of the site and a great  supporter of the Friends of Craighouse, Dougie – as he was known to all –  did so much. Working hard flyering and writing letters, we particularly remember and have him to thank for the tireless work he did – out in all weathers – collecting signatures for our petition. Online petitions were just becoming fashionable at the time, but we deliberately decided to keep things local and go for a hard-copy paper petition – the old-fashioned kind – to demonstrate the amount of support in the local community for the site. Of course hand-signed petitions take a lot of physical legwork and Dougie was a huge part of this endeavour – out each evening, rain or shine to let people know about it.

We were thrilled when we collected nearly 6,000 signatures from the local community. So much so, that we were questioned for not looking cross enough in the resultant photo in the Evening News. As you can see we all look quite pleased with our enormous petition!petitionDougie was a central figure in our campaign and continued to defend the site up to the present time.

Aside from the great affection we all held him in, he was a well-known person in our local community and will be hugely missed – a great character and a lovely man.

We are so sorry he is no longer with us and we want to send all our good thoughts and sympathy to his family, including his wife, Gill, also a great friend of the site and who has been so supportive over the years.

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Is Craighouse being bought by Quartermile developer?

Companies recently registered at Companies House have the Craighouse name in them. Could it be that Craighouse is being bought by the owner of Quartermile, property investor, Moorfield? The company names imply that it is the “MREF III” Fund by Moorfield that is buying Craighouse, which is the same fund that owns Quartermile.

We have talked about Quartermile (the development of the old Royal Edinburgh Hospital) several times before as the A-Listed Surgical Block at Quartermile has been left undeveloped for 15 years since it was sold in 2001. At the end of last year, the Surgical Block was sold to Edinburgh University. It is Edinburgh University that will do the conversion work of the surgical hospital. The clear question coming from this story is: if converting to housing didn’t save the main A listed buildings at Quartermile, why try to do that at Craighouse? The Quartermile development had gone through a series of owners, bailouts and sales. £500m of debt was written off when the publicly bailed-out bank Lloyds took over Quartermile’s owner, Gladedale, in 2009.

We will give you more information when we have it.

The companies created in June naming Craighouse are are:

1)  Craighouse Developments One Ltd
2)  Craighouse Developments Two Ltd
3)  Craighouse Developments Three Ltd
4)  CH Edinburgh Holdings Ltd
 
5)  CH Edinburgh Ltd
 
 
6)  Mref Iii BG Craighouse Ltd
 
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NEWSFLASH: IS CRAIGHOUSE PARTNERSHIP PLANNING CONSENT VALID?

New Information Could Call it into Question

The granting of planning permission for the new build at Craighouse depended completely on a “conservation deficit” existing i.e. that they would not make enough profit from developing only the existing buildings without newbuild. The conservation deficit depended on the balance between the costs of development and sales values.

The amount of newbuild has to  – according to Enabling Development policy – be at an absolute minimum.

The local community and Friends of Craighouse always insisted that the sales values used by the developers were too low and that realistic prices meant no justification for any new build on the site.

The Council disagreed and said that they had undertaken a full appraisal of the financial proposal put forward by the developers.

New Information now calls this into question.

An ongoing FOI process since early 2015 that has required the intervention of the Scottish Information Commissioner in order to force the City of Edinburgh Council to release information, has shown it is increasingly clear that what was stated in the Council’s own planning report was not true.

The planning report said the full financial appraisal undergone by the Council included “internal and external audits” of the developers’ financial proposal.

However, it now turns out that this key statement in the planning report may not be correct.

External audits of costs were finally released after repeated FOI requests. After the intervention of the Scottish Information Commissioner, some details of sales price analysis were released in the form of a heavily redacted e-mail from May 2013. This was not an assessment of Scheme 3, nor of Scheme 2 but of SCHEME 1 – a scheme with a totally different plan, from a different time to the Scheme 3 and that wasn’t accepted at the time as an Enabling Development.

How can that count as an audit? It doesn’t.

The 2013 spreadsheet attached to the e-mail remains withheld. Nothing from the Council exists from 2014 except Appendix 2 of the planning report which does not constitute an audit in any shape or form. Appendix 2 is merely an acceptance of what the developer says – not an internal or external audit.

What does exist is a presentation to the Council by the developers that is clearly of very questionable validity in terms of sales values. This is not an “internal” or “external” audit either.

Sales values seen by the Evening News in 2014 showed sales values for the development of the listed  buildings that meant no conservation deficit existed and that no new build was required under Scottish planning regulations.

(Note that the date of the sales figures seen by the Evening News was only around 5 weeks after the hearing and 5 weeks BEFORE permission was formally granted on 18-Nov-14!)

It looks like the Council didn’t audit Scheme 3, despite what it said in the planning report and to the planning committee.

So – what now?

Could this challenge the validity of the planning consent?

Further developments are expected in this ongoing process. Watch this space. We will keep you updated.

Posted in Finance | 1 Comment

Object to the demolitions of parts of A Listed buildings at Craighouse: Deadline 3rd June.

The Craighouse planning consent was supposed to save the listed buildings, but instead all that is being proposed right now is yet more demolitions. Yet again, we are being asked to object to the planning department to stop further destruction of the site.

See at the bottom of this post for instructions on how to object.
Deadline: Friday 3rd June

William Gray Muir, the developer pushing for the planning consent to “save” Craighouse has now moved onto other projects and refuses to talk about Craighouse anymore. While new investor, Clearbell, markets the site as “Residential development land” and is seeking “delivery partners“. A series of building warrant applications on the Edinburgh planning portal for Craighouse are only for demolitions: no sign of building warrant applications for renovations or construction.

ChimneyImage

In less than two years, the enabling development has failed.

 

The application asks to demolish the chimney shown on the right as it is leaning and has become unsafe. But the proposals are not to repair this chimney. The tall chimneys are a key defining feature of the architecture of these A listed buildings. The chimney should be repaired, not demolished. What is the point of the enabling development if parts of the site are gradually demolished as they deteriorate?

2014-04-20-4809

The current planning applications ask to remove the current gates from the pedestrian entrance to the site, including one of the stone pillars. The application states that the materials will be stored for restoration at some unspecified point in the future. But when?

The gates are being removed for “site traffic egress”. But, this route is highly unsuitable for construction traffic. There are no plans presented for the route construction traffic will take.

In the meantime, what is to stop the owners putting up another 2014-07-23-5307“temporary” wooden barrier, blocking access to the site? No planning application was made for that temporary structure and once the current gates are gone, something needs to be put in place to block unauthorized vehicle access. No plans are supplied that prevent unauthorized vehicle access, but allow pedestrian access.

The “enabling development” was supposed to preserve public access and save the buildings. The risk is that this is a precursor to blocking public access to the site until such time as a buyer is found who is willing and able to fund the restoration of the listed buildings.

How to object:

You can object by either:

  1. E-mailing Barbara Stuart (Barbara.Stuart@edinburgh.gov.uk), giving the reason for your objection and the two reference numbers: 16/02163/FUL and 16/02164/LBC, as well as your name and address
  2. Object directly on the website at both these links: 16/02163/FUL and 16/02164/LBC

Your reasons for objecting could include:

  • The enabling development was supposed to save the buildings, not lead to further demolitions.
  • The chimneys are critical to the design of the A-Listed buildings and should be repaired, not demolished.
  • The entrance gates being removed are not a suitable exit or entrance for construction traffic and there is already a construction traffic route.
  • No plans are shown for how to stop unauthorized vehicles going into the site via the entrance once the gates are removed.
  • If the gates were replaced with a “temporary” structure like the other entrance, access to the site would be blocked, which would break a key commitment made by the applicant for the current consent.
  • The map in the application is out of date and does not show the current main entrance, which is critical to understanding the application.
Posted in Clearbell, Mountgrange, Planning process, Sundial | 2 Comments

Removal of gates and chimney at Craighouse

There is a new planning application at Craighouse to remove the gates by the lodge and reduce the size of a chimney (for “safety”). We are still investigating.

Here is the main planning application: https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=O6AK68EWLMX00

Here is the Listed Building Consent application: https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=O6AK6YEWLN000

The deadline to comment seems to be Friday 3rd June (but these dates tend to change, as we have seen before).

Here is the “design statement”:

16_02163_FUL-DESIGN_STATEMENT-3332398

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Why is Scotland’s Finance Minister, John Swinney, so keen to hide what he did in May 2013?

The Scottish Government are claiming that Scotland doesn’t need regulation of the lobbying industry because it already releases all meetings that Scottish Ministers have, including with lobbyists. Except that in the Craighouse case, they haven’t.

You may remember that after a tip-off, we knew that Mountgrange (the owner of the Craighouse site) and their lobbyists had got a private meeting with John Swinney in 2013, but wanted to know more, so we submitted a Freedom of Information Request. It took a huge amount of campaigning and appeals over several months to get the Scottish Government to honour that FOI request and release some information about that one meeting. So, hardly the transparency that the Scottish Government claim there.

But what about the public register of Ministerial Engagements? Well, for May 2013 (the month of the Craighouse meeting) John Swinney’s appointments are nowhere to be found. Instead, the meetings for June 2013 appear twice. OK, so you might think it was an honest mistake. So, we asked them. They ignored the request to correct the information, instead claiming “the Scottish Government is committed to increasing transparency”.

Here are the engagements, but I wonder if you can see any commercial lobbyists in this list. It looks to us like they list the clients of the lobbyists, but not the lobbyists themselves.

The campaign to release this information continues, as does the campaign to get the Scottish Government to commit to a *real* lobbying transparency bill, such as those in other countries, like the USA.

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Woodland clearance work at Craighouse

Woodland clearance work at Craighouse has started and it isn’t pretty. We had expected that before such works had started the council would ensure that proper protections for drainage, flooding and wildlife would be in place. All we hear is of delays to drainage plans and silence on tree protection and wildlife protection. We have asked several times, but received no replies at all. We will let you know if we hear anything, but in the meantime we encourage you to contact your local councillors.

Woodland cleared by front entrance to the site

Woodland cleared by front entrance to the site

Mountgrange’s previous developments, such as Caltongate, were left in a state like this for years. The site is now managed under Mountgrange’s new name, “Clearbell”, where it is described as “Residential Development Land”. We assume the new name, Clearbell, is to disassociate themselves with the past financial failures of Mountgrange, but the same staff are involved just transferred to the new company.

Are Sundial still involved in the project? We asked William Gray Muir, but he refused to answer. Susan Davison, who worked for Sundial during the Craighouse project is now back working for Clearbell, having previously worked for Mountgrange during the Caltongate years.

Woodland clearance at the top of Craiglea Place

Woodland clearance at the top of Craiglea Place

It’s very sad to see such beautiful places wrecked like this. The community is very upset.

There are signs saying this is just for invasive species, but the pictures show the work is woodland clearance.

20151005_113431

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The difficulties of recovering debts from networks of UK & offshore companies or their directors

It has recently become much easier for the public to find out about company and director finances because Companies House have made access to their companies database free. This is the government database of the public records of businesses in the UK. Previously, obtaining accounts and other documents from Companies House was £1 a time, which quickly adds up when looking into complex networks of UK and off-shore companies in various states of activity or insolvency, like the Mountgrange companies. We had previously had to buy various documents to find out about some of the other attempts to recover some of the Mountgrange millions.

But, now that the information is free, it is much easier to look into some of the Mountgrange businesses, their connections to off-shore companies and the attempts to recover some of the debts. For example, the administrator of Mountgrange Land Limited found it hard to recover a £1m+ loan that Mountgrange Land Limited made to its only director:

Mountgrange Land Limited Administrators report 4th March 2015

Director’s Loan

At the date of the Administrators’ appointment the Director’s loan account balance was £1.15m. The Administrators were engaged in protracted dialogue with the Director since commencement of the Administration regarding repayment which concluded that recovery of the Director’s loan from any formal enforcement action would be both limited and uncertain.

In the absence of funds to progress a formal enforcement action and in view of the potential recovery, the Administrators agreed a settlement of £100,000 with the Director in November 2014 in full and final settlement of the Director’s loan accounts in the Company and Stud. This has been apportioned in proportion to the Director’s loan balance in each . The sum of £81,249 was allocated to the Company.”

What this says is that after more than 5 years, a large administrator could not recover £1.15m from one of Mountrange’s directors and had to accept £100,000 instead.

This weighed heavily on our decision not to go to a full judicial review over the Craighouse decision. We were concerned that it would be very hard to protect the individual members of the group challenging the case. Whilst the law does little to protect communities fighting such huge companies through judicial review, it seems that the system also does little to challenge or reclaim the monies owed by large companies and the individuals associated with them. This unfairness in the system should be improved, but unfortunately the Scottish Government is making it harder for communities to challenge the lawfulness of decisions like Craighouse on environmental grounds.

 

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