The Friends of Craighouse have opened a dialogue with The Craighouse Partnership by asking them for a meeting so that we could raise concerns for the local community.
The Craighouse Partnership agreed to an hour, but were kind enough in the end to give us nearly 3 hours of their time to talk to us last week. We put forward the views of the public that have been expressed to us, while William Gray-Muir (of Sundial) and Mark Cummings of (Invicta) gave their points of view. Unfortunately, The Craighouse Partnership were not willing to discuss the current proposals, however the meeting was useful and we hope to engage the Partnership in further dialogue in the future.
We are working on writing up the notes of the meeting into minutes so our members can stay informed of progress.
In the meantime, here is the summary of the key points I learnt in the meeting:
- Mark Cummings started by asking us on what basis we claim to represent the community. We explained that we organized a demonstration of over 300 people on the orchard, have hundreds of members, and a petition with over 3,500 signatures. We also explained that the Friends doesn’t tell people what to think: we are providing the community with information that they can use to make up their own minds.
- We asked for a successful model development that the developers can present to show how the enabling development proposed for Craighouse could work. The developers were unable to point to a single successful model similar to what they propose. They said this is because Craighouse is “unique”. The Friends believe this is an area of concern that needs further clarification and assurance in light of other developments in Edinburgh, the enormous sensitivity of the site and questions about the partnership’s own experience and track record with projects of this complexity. Many of our members have pointed out that Quartermile has just been sold – again – despite the fact that not all the listed buildings have been converted. The last thing anyone wants to see is a half-completed or failed project at Craighouse.
- We asked to see the developers’ current proposals, as has been shown to Craiglockhart Community Council and Morningside Community Council. The developers refused, saying they do not have “proposals” yet. It was clear that their public presentation of their original plans received a lot of opposition, and they are still working on proposals that they hope will be acceptable politically and to the planning officials. According to the Craiglockhart Community Council notes, the landform appears to have been dropped, but the developers are still pushing for the orchard development, despite being aware that building on that very protected area has been rejected in the past by the council planners, by Napier and by Simpson & Brown.
- We asked for examples of a track-record of companies involved in the partnership. Mountgrange are a particular concern as we have yet to find a single significant development project Mountgrange have funded, despite having planning permission on some projects for several years during property boom times. The developers mentioned three projects that Mountgrange’s founders were involved in during the 80s at a previous company, so we will be researching those before we could use them as examples of funding a property development. If the project at Craighouse is over-ambitious and can’t be funded by the current partners, then the developers’ financial sustainability argument becomes a red herring. We were given a particularly strong defence of Sundial’s track record, with lots of listed buildings restored, even continuing in the current financial climate.
- We asked for the developers to back up their proposed maintenance figures, which are considerably higher than the historic and projected maintenance figures presented to us. The developers told us that they are still working on justifying these figures to council experts, so we will not be given a breakdown of their proposed increase in maintenance costs. We were told that we missed out items in our analysis, such as heating of public areas, but we don’t buy into the argument that new buildings should be built so their owners can subsidize the heating bills of people in grand flats in Craighouse, especially after the failure of similar schemes in the past.
As you can imagine, with nearly 3 hours spent, there is lots of other detail to talk about! We would like to thank the Craighouse Partnership for the time they spent with us, going through our questions. If we can discuss these issues in person, then I really hope that we can come up with a moderate and reasonable plan at Craighouse which is acceptable to everyone.