It was heartening at the Morningside hustings last week to hear a fairly united front from the Council candidates. It is clear that the present proposals are not acceptable, are in complete contravention of planning policy, the protections and the Local Plan, and set a worrying precident for other green and protected spaces around Edinburgh.
We have received more statements from the council candidates which we will be putting up on the Statements page of this website just as soon as we have wrestled the requisite text boxes into submission (!). It is disappointing if candidates are made fearful to engage properly with the local community on these issues due to the admittedly ambiguous and unsatisfactory Councillors Code of Conduct. This is surely undemocratic. This code should not prevent real engagement with the issues and the important questions being asked.
As such, we would like to reproduce the following letter that was sent to us by some of our Craiglockhart members who received it from their Green candidate Gavin Corbett and were impressed with the approach he has taken. This letter remains open-minded whilst asking important and probing questions of the development. It is this sort of detailed indepth engagement that this development needs – and that the community needs from its councillors. We are a cross party campaign with no allegiances and we are happy to report that we have cross party support. But we are posting this in the hope that all will start to ask the really difficult questions and so that dialogue will be open and not just take place behind closed doors. We have offered all the candidates an opportunity to post a piece on our website and look forward to bringing you more so you can get a feeling for their general views and approach in the coming weeks.
Gavin Corbett’s letter to Residents:
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT AT CRAIGHOUSE ON CRAIGLOCKHART HILL
Many of you will know – and many of you have asked me – about the development at the former Napier University campus of Craighouse on Craiglockhart Hill.
I live in the area and visit the hill, with my children, over and over again, in all seasons. I’ve seen, and helped with, the excellent work that goes into improving the hill and woods by local residents through Friends of Craiglockhart Woods and Nature Trail. That is why I know it is such a precious place. And that is also why I am determined to make sure that the character of and access to the hill is maintained and enhanced.
A consortium called the Craighouse Partnership now oversees the Craighouse site, which includes the campus and a large part of the nature reserve to the top of the hill. It has been consulting on options for redeveloping the existing buildings as homes and also building new homes on the site.
No formal planning application has been submitted yet, so it is right to keep an open mind as to what will emerge. However, discussion so far has prompted five key questions for me, which I wanted to share with you.
1. Access arrangements
The developers have promised to make sure that access to the hill for members of the public is maintained and enhanced.
- Given that the developers will only be short term owners, how binding are those promises and are there any circumstances in which future owners can go back on them?
- What is to stop yet more new homes being built on the site in the future?
2. The number and nature of new homes
The developers argue that they need to build 116 new homes on the site to offset the costs of upgrading the current A-listed buildings to make 66 dwellings.
- Is it really necessary to have almost twice as many new homes as converted ones to make the development as a whole viable?
- What is the expected price range of the homes in the development as a whole and how does that meet the main pressure points in the area’s housing market?
3. Taking the long term or short term view
The keystone of the partnership is Craighouse Ltd, a company registered on the Isle of Man. The company is 100% owned by Mountgrange Real Estate Opportunity Fund, which is 90% funded by overseas investors. People might recognise the name Mountgrange from the failed Caltongate site in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, which remains a massive gap site today.
- Is a company which is registered offshore and so heavily funded from overseas the best vehicle for taking a long term and locally sensitive view of how best the site is developed?
4. Other options for use of Craighouse
Since Napier University decided to expand its Sighthill Campus it has been clear that Craighouse is surplus to requirements. The developers say that the only option for the buildings is residential use.
- Are we confident that all options for use of the site have been explored and not simply the one which offers the quickest or highest profit?
5. Impact on local services and amenity
The catchment primary school for Craighouse is South Morningside Primary School, which is currently one of the most overcrowded schools in the city, with no easy options for expanding.
- What practically is going to be done to take account of the impact here and on nearby schools, Oxgangs and Craiglockhart Primary Schools?
- Given that there will be more than 350 parking places, what is the impact on traffic flows and parking?
I am raising these questions because I am a local resident who cares passionately about the hill and woods. But I am also doing so as someone who would like to build on my work in the area, as one of your three councillors. If you share any of these concerns then please support me in the Council elections on 3 May.
Green Candidate for Fountainbridge / Craiglockhart Ward