Yesterday, William Gray Muir sent a letter to local residents and other stakeholders. In it he accuses us of making a number of allegations in the post of the 8th June that we simply have not made.
He implies we have questioned the professional ability of Sundial’s expert staff. We have not.
I want to quickly reply to the points raised in William Gray Muir’s letter and then we will leave this matter for now:
From William’s letter:
1. The blog repeatedly claims that The Craighouse Partnership has not taken steps to address rot issues within the vacant buildings at the Craighouse Campus.
We would like to make it clear that we have never accused Sundial of failing to maintain the buildings at Craighouse. It is William himself who has repeatedly talked of dry rot for many months and said that the buildings are starting to “show signs of significant deterioration” and could go into “rapid decline”, while also saying that maintenance work was underway.
We questioned how those statements are compatible and asked the council to investigate to ascertain the true condition of the buildings. There is no need, in light of proper maintenance, for the buildings to fall into “rapid decline”, before an acceptable and reasonable development is put before the council.
From William’s letter:
2. The blog claims that the Craighouse Partnership has allowed the buildings to deteriorate and that this is why the buildings had been put on The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (“RCAHMS”) Buildings at Risk Register (“BARR”).
We have never pretended to know the condition of the buildings. This blog has always believed the buildings are in good condition. However, a number of our members have raised concerns. Again, it was William, not us, who has repeatedly referred to dry rot and said the buildings are showing signs of “significant deterioration”. It was his own statements that persuaded us to ask for the situation to be looked into.
From William’s letter:
3. The blog implies that the partnership’s co-operation with RCAHMS is an attempt to force the City of Edinburgh Council’s hand.
Here is a quote from the minutes between The Craighouse Partnership and the Craiglockhart Community Council:
“WGM advised that Historic Scotland and others have concerns about the future of the seven A listed buildings if City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) do not accept the enabling development case. There is a possibility that the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) may put the buildings at Craighouse on their ‘at risk’ register due to the uncertainty about their future.”
The Craighouse Partnership itself asked for the RCAHMS inspection to be brought forward from the autumn. According to the BARR, it took just 2 working days for RCAHMS to undertake the inspection after the request.
The inspection on South Craig found: “the building suffering from quite extensive outbreaks of dry rot.”
Subsequent to our article and call for a Council inspection, the following sentence was added to the report:
“Post site visit note: the evidence of dry rot visible at time of survey had already been treated in line with works specified by specialist contractors.”
This new assessment is indeed very welcome, but at the time of our question, the report stated that the building was suffering from “quite extensive outbreaks of dry rot”. It did not say “treated dry rot”.
As we have said previously, it is William’s own series of public remarks, not the BARR report, that triggered our letter to the Council. The Council is undertaking an inspection and we will report the results of this as soon as we are informed. We hope the Council will be able to put everyone’s minds at rest.
William’s letter contains a couple of further points that I will answer.
In his letter, William Gray Muir implies we said the Canongate Venture and the Macrae tenements were owned by Mountgrange. He should revisit what we said – ownership was not mentioned and, indeed , is not the issue. Mountgrange achieved outline planning permission for the Caltongate project which including the demolition of the Canongate Venture and part of the Macrae tenements. It was this planning permission – Mountgrange’s Caltongate scheme – that put these buildings on the Buildings At Risk Register.
William says that “the presence of a building on the register has no bearing whatsoever on the planning process.”
Yet the number of A listed buildings on the BARR is used as a national performance indicator. The Scottish Government website states:
Our measure of success will be to decrease the percentage of A-listed buildings on the Buildings At Risk Register (BARR). A-listed buildings are high-profile, important assets whose condition provides a good general indicator of the health of the wider historic environment.
This means that there is a pressure on local authorities from the Scottish Government to get Grade A listed buildings off the BARR, therefore increasing the pressure on the Council.
Lastly, yes, we do question whether William Gray Muir being on the board of Edinburgh World Heritage is compatible with being part of a Consortium that wants planning protections overturned and the Edinburgh Local Plan contravened on one of the most controversial developments of protected green space in the city. Surely this is a conflict of interest both for William himself and Edinburgh World Heritage itself as a public heritage body?
We hope this goes some way to clarifying the situation. Thank you for your patience and we will update you on the outcome of the Council’s inspection just as soon as we can.