On Monday, the Friends of Craighouse sent a letter to Dame Professor Joan Stringer, Principal of Napier University, with 8 pages of detailed questions about the sale of Craighouse and about statements that Napier have made since the sale. You can download the letter by clicking on the image to the right.
Why did we send this letter?
We have asked Joan Stringer questions before, but the answers don’t match up with what we later found out, just like some of the public statements that don’t seem to match the evidence. How can people be expected to make decisions about proposals if they are presented with misleading or inaccurate information? The misinformation needs to stop.
The letter contains serious questions about Napier’s conduct surrounding the highly controversial Craighouse Campus development. We want to know how such a sensitive and historic site, containing a Nature Reserve and protected as Great Landscape Value was sold to Mountgrange, who is prepared to openly threaten dereliction if they aren’t allowed to contravene all the planning designations and the Edinburgh Local Plan in order to build new-build luxury housing across some of the most beautiful and protected parts of the landscape.
The big question is: How is it possible that Napier can sell this site, apparently at a financial loss, with little apparent public oversight, using a secretive tender process to a Consortium prepared to threaten the public – and the site – in this way over plans that were obviously wildly unacceptable from the outset?
What were the alternative bids?
We want to establish what the alternative options were. The current proposals are often presented as the only available options and there was a rumour put about at one point that this was the only offer on the table. Not so.
In fact, the Friends of Craighouse have discovered that there were 5 other bids for Craighouse.
So, why did Napier choose Mountgrange’s offer over the others and did they know the full extent of their wildly unacceptable plans when they did so?
What’s in the letter?
The Evening News have written about it here.
The questions in this letter are very detailed. They cover: the tendering process; the track records of the companies involved; what happened to Audley Court; Napier’s financial interest and support of the proposals; Craighouse site planning history, and Invicta PA (the lobbying company managing the community engagement).
Napier have not yet answered any of the questions in this letter, but we will let you know when they do.
In the meantime, we will run a series of blog posts looking at some of the above areas in more detail.
Some examples of the questions to Napier from the letter:
- What is Napier’s continuing financial interest in the site at Craighouse?
- Is Napier acting as a property developer?
- Why did Napier agree to jointly submit the planning application with Mountgrange?
- You state that new-build is necessary because “the buildings and grounds stand to fall into disrepair, a situation that no-one would wish to see develop”. Are you aiding the Partnership in what appears to be a threat?
- If you had wanted to avoid the buildings falling into disrepair, would it not have been better to sell the site to property developers who had a financially viable plan that was within the existing planning protections?
- Why are we being shown dry and wet rot in the buildings under the Partnership’s care, and no such deterioration in the buildings still under Napier’s care? Are the Partnership maintaining the buildings to a lower standard than Napier? Why is it taking so long to fix the dry rot problem, which the partnership have been talking about for months?
- Is Napier happy for the proposals for new-build to significantly increase after the public consultation caused so much public opposition?
- Why are the maintenance costs the partnership claim are “historic” twice the historic maintenance costs provided by Napier under freedom of information requests?
- Is Napier lobbying politicians in favour of the development?
- How much public funding has been given to Napier to support the historic buildings? Will you be paying this money back now that you have sold the property to developers?
- Why did you apply for £45m new funding for Sighthill at the same time as selling Craighouse?
What are we hoping to achieve?
We hope to stop The Craighouse Partnership (including Napier) giving us false or misleading information.
We hope to prevent another beautiful Edinburgh landmark being lost to property development plans that ignore our heritage, our planning protections and the beauty of our great city.
And, finally but importantly, we want to accelerate the process of getting from the totally unacceptable proposals currently being put forward, to reasonable acceptable proposals that respect the high level of protection on the site.
Hmmm might be interesting to see the tender assessment documents.
There is very little paperwork. We have something that looks like it might be a tender assessment document, but the detail is redacted. There was a shortlist of 2 of the 6 bidders, but the reason they chose those 2 is redacted (and not very detailed by the look of it). Then they were due to have interviews with their 2 shortlisted bidders, but Napier now say they “hold no further relevant records”: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/craighouse_campus_pre_sale_due_d#incoming-278678.
Thanks for this. As a government official I find the absence of a paper trial absolutely astonishing. A tender process of such an unusally high value should have a mountain of paperwork including emails and official documents. At the very least there should be able to share all the bids (minus the commercial information), a list of criteria used to assess the tenders and a clear description of how each criteria was weighted and paperwork showing scores for each bid. This HAS to be available just in case a losing bidder questions the decision. As a process like this could even end up in court, all the relevent paperwork should be kept and stored. Something doesn’t add up.
I think we have the bids (minus commercial information) received under FoI. The list of criteria is there, but redacted. I think there are scores, but again redacted. But that just takes us down to a shortlist of 2, and then the papertrail goes blank.
Thanks again. Hmmm, very odd indeed! So I wonder what on earth would happen if the losing bidder questioned the objectivity fairness of the final decision and asked to see the documents so they could understand the justification for awarding the sale to the partnership? You would have thought that in shortlisting down to 2 final bids, the process would have ‘started from scratch’ in some way shape or form or what’s the point of a final shortlist? I find that incomplete paperwork for a £10m sale of land from a public body is completely unacceptable. Good idea to make Napier face some difficult questions about their lack of transparency and questionable judgement especially as the paperwork is patchy, truncated and incomplete.
@Kel The FOI reponses in relation to the bids/tenders could be described as “light-weight” at best. The process seems to have been sub-contracted to GVA Grimley, so perhaps Napier have been able to obviate the need to hold many records by having GVA hold them instead. Either way, in my opinion, there is a distinct paucity of information and proper process surrounding the disposal of Craighouse.
If you are a government official, you may need to be careful re the Civil Service Code, fairly sure there’s some rules on political involvement there? Perhaps contact us Friends of Craighouse over email?
Yes agree and thanks for the tip! As long as I don’t publically express political affiliation to any particular political party or campaign against the polices of the serving government (conflict of interest) I’m operating within the code. As the Friends are not a party nor to they affiliate themselves with a political point of view, I think I’m ok. Civil Servants often serve on Community Councils, parent councils, voluntary organisations and campaign on general issues. You could say that in expressing the need to uphold the rules relating to public accountability, integrity, honestly and objectivity in decision-making, I’m positively defending it!
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