Meeting with the Craighouse Partnership

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.

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28 Responses to Meeting with the Craighouse Partnership

  1. Did you ask them why the Craighouse Partnership – which is undertaking the entirety of its business in Scotland – is registered in the Isle of Man, and not as a UK Ltd company or LLP? It’s a tad shady, do you not think?

    Also, as a wee hint, it may be worthwhile asking whether there were any company principles of the successful bid group who also held positions within the decision making team at Napier, and why that person was not removed. i.e. it’s a conflict of interest.

    Finally, it may be worth asking them whether they thought £10m was an exceedingly good deal for the whole estate – it certainly looks like a snip to me. Has anybody asked what the other bids were?

    Those are a “starter for ten” type questions, but there are many, many more: their whole development stinks to the high-heavens. Seriously folks, I think it’s time we started showing some teeth and not placating the very people who are out to make fast money by destroying the estate because they are getting a *seriously* easy time of it right now.

    When is the next meeting?

  2. Rosy says:

    Hi Peter
    Many thanks for your comment. Don’t worry, the Friends are not shirking from asking the serious questions in any way. Hence the extraordinary length of the meeting! There has been a huge amount of research going on and we have quite a number of interesting articles for the public to read which we will be releasing over the coming weeks. But it is also important to open a dialogue and give the Craighouse Partnership a chance to answer these concerns and to put our members’ views to them.

    It is certainly disappointing that the Partnership presently cannot give a single successful example of the kind of model they are proposing for Craighouse, nor doe Mountgrange appear to have the kind of track record one would hope for for such a serious and sensitive development. It is also disappointing that they have been unable to evidence their maintenance argument, which would appear to be the cornerstone of their demands for such a excessive amount of new-build. It is also disappointing that the examples of development we were given for Mountgrange would appear – presently – not to stack up, but this needs more research before we can go into more detail.

    The Friends are about research and fact-finding. We would not like to put something to the general public without having put in that research first. It is certainly safe to say that the Partnership’s finance argument simply does not stack up presently. The ownership of the site is very complicated and hidden in a series of off-shore companies, as you have noted, and we are preparing an article about this as it is important. We did ask questions about the extremely low price the site has been acquired for. (10 million, when it was bought by Napier for 9 million nearly twenty years ago!) It was confirmed that Napier had a retained financial interest (contrary to what was told to Ian Murray MP as circulated in a letter to residents) and it is imperative now that Napier come clean with the public about what their exact financial interest is in this development (and what interest they have in the proposed amounts of new-build).

    We would like to invite the Craighouse Partnership to send us proper detailed maintenance figures for us to look at and analyse.

    I apologise for the length of time it is taking to get all the information out there – this is a complex site with many aspects and we are engaging with the official process. It is great that we have active members such as yourself to help suggest new areas of enquiry. Keep in touch and let us know your thoughts on the other articles. Many thanks again Rosy

  3. Lester Knibb says:

    Well done to the Friends. Keep going and thank you for keeping us informed – that is so helpful.

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