We want to thank our members for their patience waiting for the minutes of the meeting we had with The Craighouse Partnership on the 26th Jan.
We were hoping to be able to bring you agreed minutes. We have sent these to the Craighouse Partnership and invited them to send their notes, saying we would accommodate any amendments or changes they wanted to make.
After a lot of prevarication, they have said they are not happy with them but have refused to send us their notes and they have also refused to send their amendments or the changes or to state what it is they are unhappy with. We have invited them to send us minutes that they have written instead, but they will not do that either.
They wanted to have another unminuted, agenda-less meeting to talk about them. Today they wrote to say they will talk about these minutes only if we agree not to disclose anything about their comment on the minutes.
We are beginning to believe we will never get a consensus and this situation will just be delayed further and further. As the Community Liaison Forum starts in 2 days, we regrettably feel we have to publish our own minutes of the meeting now, and the Partnership can put their own version if they wish.
The Craighouse Partnership said if we published these minutes then they would publish their own version and the public could decide which was accurate. We are happy for our members to compare and contrast these to whatever The Craighouse Partnership produces. [Added: The Craighouse Partership have since posted their version of the minutes, not agreed by or sent in advance to the Friends, which you can read here.] We had three independent members of the group present at the meeting and have said at every point that we are willing to correct any inaccuracy either in these minutes or on our website. However, we cannot do that unless the Craighouse Partnership tell us what they want corrected.
I must apologise for the length of the minutes. They cover very complex issues and the meeting was 3 hours in duration – and these detailed minutes reflect this.
The key points that came out of the meeting for us is that:
- The Craighouse Partnership are asking for Planning Policy to be ignored in favour of a cross-subsidising maintenance model for which they could provide no figures nor examples.
- The revised capital costs given to us at the meeting would still deliver a profit to the developers with no new-build element, under their original proposals for 90 flats in the old buildings at the conservative estimate of £400,000 each.
- The projects we were given as examples of Mountgrange’s track record need serious investigating and pose serious questions about the suitability of this company which has little history of similar development but a big history of land speculation and making money through service charges.
- Leslie House in Fife is the only comparable development in terms of listed convertion with enabling development we could find that any member of the partnership had done and ended with a building gutted through fire. [We have corrected this sentence after complaint from William Gray Muir from Sundial and issued a clarification of this point here.]
- The relation of Craighouse and Caltongate needs thorough research and investigation.
Minutes of Meeting 26th January 2012
Present: Mark Cummings (Invicta PA) William Gray-Muir (Sundial) Susan Davison (Sundial) Graham Cameron (Friends of Craighouse) Rosy Barnes (Friends of Craighouse) Andrew Richards (Friends of Craighouse)
Abbreviations: TCP: The Craighouse Partnership; FoC: Friends of Craighouse
MC started by asking on what basis Friends of Craighouse claim to represent a community view, given that there are a range of community representative bodies. GC replied by saying FoC exist to disseminate information, not make decisions on behalf of the community. RB explained that FoC are the largest community group covering the Craighouse development, with over 460 active supporters, over 300 people attended the protest on the hill, and a petition with over 3,500 local signatures [since minutes this figure is now over 4200 signatures]. MC said that FoC have a view, and WGM said that RB and AR had said “no development” when they met him as individuals before the exhibitions, to which RB and AR said they had never said no development, but do disagree with excessive development or development on protected spaces.
Update on Proposals
GC asked for an update on proposals for Craighouse. WGM said that TCP are not in a position to update on proposals right now. Proposals are still subject to discussions, but are moving forward very significantly. MC said that the key organization is the council and that TCP had had discussions with community councils. RB asked why proposals were shown to community councils and not to FoC. MC replied that was hearsay, and who told FoC that. RB said it was a matter of public record and the notes of the meeting were on the community councils’ websites. MC explained that the community councils are statutory consultees. WGM explained that the proposals still need work and are not there yet. The initial public displays were exploratory, and it was not reasonable for people to treat them as complete proposals as people had done. We are out of the formal consultation process and will be having a community liaison forum in the future. MC reiterated that TCP do not have proposals and the plans that were shown were judged as proposals, which they are not. Further input is needed, such as architectural style.
Areas of Development
FoC asked if there was any change in the areas of proposed development, and MC replied that there had been no change, but WGM did explain that the areas are a matter of significant debate.
RB stated the concern she, and many members of the community, had about the statutory feedback date. MC replied saying that the official planning requirements are 12 weeks, and he had been involved in the creation of the new system which he thought is a great improvement but not perfect. RB said that the feedback from the 2nd round of presentations to the public by TCP won’t need to be legally included in any report to the council. WGM said that he was uncomfortable with the distrust FoC was showing. RB countered that members had been dismayed about the date and as a result TCP need to build trust. MC said the new round of presentations will have a deadline for feedback, and this is beyond the statutory requirements. They are limited by the scope of existing legislation, but are going beyond what is required on a voluntary basis.
RB said that people are asking FoC about the process, so MC promised to put together a 1-page guideline for the next round of consultations to help the public through the process. He wants TCP to get the credit for all the effort they are putting into consulting beyond what is required of them.
Timeline for Planning Process
WGM outlined his hopes for a timeline as: Feb/March for getting a plan acceptable to council planners, but it is a very complex application, so hard to guarantee timescales. He said that there is no point having politically unacceptable plans. MC said they needed plans they can stand behind with confidence. Both TCP and FoC agreed that any proposed development needed to be “reasonable”.
RB said that FoC wants dialogue, but MC was concerned that if they give FoC confidential information, FoC will release it. WGM: TCP’s plan for dialogue is the community liaison forum, which will be chaired by someone independent.
MC: Could FoC summarize what they see as the community’s concerns? RB summarized concerns over: loss of green space; the orchard (in particular); the enormous size of the proposed car-park development going over extensive green-space around the car-park; public access to the open spaces, not just a path around the outside; and the difficulty of the questions in the consultation questionnaire made it difficult to express these views. MC replied that it was a learning process for TCP, and that they have made repeated and strong commitments to preserve public access, but what about the listed buildings? RB replied that it is not clear that the site won’t be sold on, leaving someone else to sort out the listed buildings and maintaining access. MC said that it is legally irrelevant who owns it, but RB argued that ownership is not irrelevant to the local community.
TCP were given the opportunity to present other successful models of the enabling/cross subsidising development model they were proposing, as the Friends had had difficulty identifying any successful comparable examples. WGM suggested FoC look at an English Heritage paper on enabling development.
MC said there is no useful comparison project as the Craighouse site is unique. WGM said that the developers should find a comparator. MC told the FoC to find one if they wanted. GC agreed with the fact the site is unique and added that that uniqueness shouldn’t be snatched away by the development as currently proposed.
MC: FoC’s analysis was skewed because current maintenance costs are reduced as the site is being wound down by Napier. WGM: FoC taken a sensible approach, but the numbers are wrong. The White Young Green report was highly relevant because it showed why Craighouse had failed institutional use twice as it was cripplingly expensive to maintain and quoted £18m lifecycle costs over 25 years.
RB said it would be interesting to compare to other institutions and their upkeep and pointed out the vast majority of these costs were mechanical and electrical costs of institutional use rather than the upkeep of listed buildings and the cost of residential was far lower. FoC asked again to see proper figures on maintenance but TCP refused, saying it is for the council experts to approve the maintenance cost calculations. RB asked TCP – don’t they think they have to justify that to the community if they are using that as an argument?
WGM said Napier had been good guardians of the site, and that the White Green Young report was appropriate for institutional use, but doesn’t include residential costs such as heating of public areas, gritting roads, and woodland management.
GC said there was no debate about the importance of retaining the listed buildings but that the model that is used is key and that dereliction can happen as a deliberate strategy.
AR pointed out that the cross-subsidizing maintenance model did not make sense: it’s “like asking your neighbours to pay your heating bills”. FoC again asked for a model: The Craighouse Partnership reiterated the site was unique.
The Friends reiterated their willingness to look at any figures and evidence provided by TCP.
WGM said that the listed buildings were now going to be 60 units instead of 90 because of conservation reasons – however they argued that the flats would still be worth the £400,000 that the original 90 flats were estimated to be worth, despite their larger size. RB pointed out they would be worth a lot more, but MC said there was a cap due to the surrounding housing prices in the area. RB replied that the demographic was totally different and these flats would be huge.
WGM then went on to say that the capital costs analysis that FoC had written was not realistic in terms of renovation and conversion costs. A more reasonable cost for Craighouse would be £125/sq ft. This is over twice FoC’s previous estimate. The costs will be high, especially as more cases of dry rot have been found. The sale price of the flats at Craighouse would be in the £400,000 to £475,000 range. MC insisted that sale prices cannot scale with size of flats beyond the local price ceiling.
FoC will research from the information given by WGM and AR and WGM will correspond further about this to produce a new capital costs analysis.
RB said £10m was undervalue. MC said it was the best offer. There were no non-private-sector bidders, to the best of his knowledge. WGM: looked at other uses, but if a hotel had bought Craighouse, they wouldn’t have preserved open access. Care-home was investigated, but it would have led to a large low-rise development, unsuited to the site. AR asked if “best” bid meant highest, but MC didn’t know, as Napier had sought the best bid. RB asked if these uses had been investigated by Napier or by TCP: WGM said by the partnership.
Track Record: Sundial
WGM gave a summary of Sundial’s 75 years of experience. Set up by his father, WGM joined the business in 1998. Since then, Sundial has worked on 65 listed buildings, totalling 500,000 sq ft as well as 122,000 sq ft of non-listed buildings. WGM has done 50,000sq ft of work on grade A listed buildings since we first met. He is also on the board of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and a trustee of Well Court. Sundial is the only listed building specialist developer in Edinburgh. MC: “that’s why we appointed him”.
Also, Sundial does new-build, such as Ravelston Terrace and Brunswick St, and elements of the Leith Hospital project.
After the property crash, Sundial has paid back £35m of debt in the last 4 years.
WGM brought up the problems at Leslie House, where a fire seriously damaged the building. He went through the huge effort and care that Sundial had taken to avoid accidents, and to practice with the local fire service for quickly putting out any fire, but in the event a series of events outside Sundial’s control led to a great deal of unnecessary damage to the building. RB said this shows there are more risks of dereliction than just that the developer isn’t given their way. WGM agreed, and said the lesson from this is that at Craighouse development should start ASAP. As soon as Napier leave, development should start, or there is a risk of dereliction. MC explained that these comments should be attributed to Sundial, and not TCP. Both WGM and MC agreed that vacancy is the issue.
GC put it as “do what we want or we will leave the site to rot”.
RB said that no one wanted to rub salt in wounds, but that Leslie House showed that there were more risks of dereliction than just what the Partnership would like to maintain – ie, if the developers don’t get what they want. She added that AR and RB had visited the site and were struck by its similarity to Craighouse with its woodland, walks and grounds – and that it was “tragic” how the site was ruined.
Track Record: Mountgrange
AR said that the Friends have found it hard to locate successful Mountgrange projects where a development has ended up funded to full development. MC and WGM denied this, listing: the Lanesborough hotel, Rose Theatre, and Royal Mint Court. Friends thanked them and said they would research further.
AR suggested that Mountgrange does not take things through to development. MC said that Mountgrange Capital was not the same as Mountgrange Real Estate Opportunity Fund and was a completely different company. Mountgrange Capital were a developer, but went into administration. Craighouse is funded by Mountgrange Real Estate Opportunity Fund (MoREOF) which is an opportunity fund.
AR said they had the same managing directors and it was standard to have separate companies (or funds) for different projects – but it was like saying that Sundial wasn’t Sundial because it set up a separate legal entity for each development.
MC pressed that Mountgrange was not a property developer but a funder: “very different from a property development company: will be here as an investor”.
There was some discussion over whether Mountgrange Real Estate Property Fund were dependent on borrowing or not. AR said that Mountgrange have declared they would borrow 65%. MC said that was a choice not a necessity. AR said 65% bank funding would be difficult in the current climate. WGM said that 60-65% is a low gearing.
RB said how could the public be reassured that the site would not just be sold on if planning permission agreed? MC asked why is this a problem? Doesn’t matter who owns the site. AR it would be a problem as the new owners would have a massive debt and therefore the development becomes more risky and more new-build potentially asked for or funding collapses
AR claimed that Mountgrange goes for massively over-ambitious schemes. MC said the banks were to blame for Caltongate. WGM said the banks were to blame for Leslie House.
Track Record of Developers on New Build
RB wondered where the experience of project management of new-build is in TCP. MC said this was provided by Mountgrange. WGM said this was provided by the architectural team.
RB asked about public access and WGM and MC both said that TCP is committed to maintaining public access at the highest level. RB asked if it would be to the same level as currently. TCP said they have already made this commitment. RB asked if that just meant a path around the outside, and MC and WGM insisted it did not, it meant access at the current level.
GC pointed out that access to areas built on couldn’t be maintained, nor to gardens. WGM replied that the Creative Industries building had planning consent and that was 80,000 sq ft.
There was some return to the issue of whether public access existed to the site prior to Napier taking it over. MC said there was long-standing access, but Napier had accelerated and improved it. WGM asked if there was always access, why had there been a fight about a Right of Way along the track at the south of the site up from Craiglea Place?
WGM said we have to find a concord between private users and public users and asked what would happen if TCP stopped mowing the grass, which they could do. MC said the public may feel they have entitlement but don’t have the right to sterilize what the new owners do with their land. WGM: TCP will be on-site for 3-5 years.
WGM said the Council are concerned about liability risks. Should we ban tobogganing? There is a liability risk for TCP. WGM pointed out that Right to Roam is now more important than Rights of Way. TCP could try the Dean Gardens approach and only allow in paying members. It would be wrong, but it is legally open to them. The quality of open space must be maintained.
Areas of Building
There was a short discussion again about areas of development. WGM said it’s nutty to build on the woodland, as in the Simpson & Brown conservation report. TCP said Simpson & Brown have changed their view of where to develop. The new proposals have least impact on character of the site.
AR said that building on the orchard had been officially rejected by council planners, as well as in the Simpson & Brown report. MC said that was in the Creative Industries planning consent. RB asked if there was a new audit or an updated audit. WGM explained that they have produced new reports for the council outlining why they think their proposed sites are the best for the site.
WGM: there is a plan for 50 affordable homes off-site. In his opinion, affordable housing is a regressive tax on developments. He said housing associations wouldn’t touch homes on-site.
WGM: The Local Nature Reserve should be publicly owned, but it has been incredibly hard to find someone to take it on. Robin wants to, but his membership are currently against it.
RB asked if we offered to take over the LNR and the orchard, would that be accepted. WGM said there would have to be a financially viable case. RB asked “why split?” RB said that on-going dialogue and opening the lines of communication between FoC and TCP would be helpful in this area moving forward.
RB asked about the proposed public meeting. MC asked who had said there would be a public meeting and that TCP had no intention of holding a public meeting. RB suggested that dialogue had been opened between FoC and TCP and that this dialogue should be kept open. MC said they would prefer no dialogue and there would be a community liaison forum, chaired by someone independent, that TCP propose. The previous plans were not well received, and TCP had received 600 views from the public. RB asked if information and details would be released to the members of the Community Liaison Forum before it met. MC said details were to be finalised.