Planning Article 1 – Designations, Protections and Key Documents

“outstanding…a superb hilltop site, still unspoiled” Historic Scotland

We have been compiling a series of articles about Craighouse and planning policy, which we will put permanently on the menu under “planning” for people to access. When the application goes in, there will be 21-28 days for the public to put in planning objections to the plans. It is best if these objections are put in terms of the material planning considerations – as this is what the planners must consider. We hope that these articles will help people get to know some of the policies and introduce the key documents.  We will also make available our own objection letter when the time comes.

It is interesting to note that these important protections on the site – the designations and  what is said in the Edinburgh City Local Plan – were not presented to the general public by the Craighouse Partnership on their exhibition boards at the two sets of exhibitions they held.

What becomes abundently clear when compiling and researching these articles is just how against policy the proposals are.

The Craighouse Partnership’s development proposals are contrary to the Edinburgh and Lothians Structure Plan, the Edinburgh City Local Plan, National Planning Policies and local policy documents. 

Craighouse has not been identified for new-build housing through the Development Plan process even though the plan was only adopted in 2010.

This, therefore, is a speculative application.


Craighouse is a spectacular green hill-top site on one of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills.

It contains Grade-A buildings of national significance set in beautiful rolling parkland and woodland grounds designated of Great Landscape Value. The site is in a Conservation Area,  contains a Local Nature Reserve and most of the site is protected as Local Nature Conservation Site.

As Historic Scotland observes above, the site is remarkably and unusually unspoilt, and, as such, particularly special and worth preserving. It is of huge amenity value to local people and citywide, has fabulous (and protected) views and is visible in views from all over the city. The site has enjoyed public access to the site for decades.


These are the protections that cover all or parts of the site the Craighouse Partnership want to develop:

  • Grade A listed buildings of national significance and their setting
  • Designated Area of Great Landscape Value
  • Open Space
  • Conservation Area
  • Local Nature Conservation Site/Local nature reserve
  • The whole site is a Candidate for Special Landscape Area (SLA) in the new Edinburgh Local Plan

The Edinburgh City Local Plan

What is being proposed for Craighouse is, as we said above, contrary to the Edinburgh and Lothians Structure Plan, the Edinburgh City Local Plan, National Planning Policies and local policy documents. 

Craighouse has not been identified for new-build housing through the Development Plan process even though the plan was only adopted in 2010. It is a candidate for Special Landscape Area (SLA) in the new plan which is due to be adopted in a few years.

The Edinburgh City Local Plan at 5.6 says:

 This policy seeks to protect all open spaces, both public and privately owned, which contribute to the amenity of their surroundings and the city, which provide or are capable of providing for the recreational needs of residents and visitors or which are an integral part of the city’s landscape and townscape character and its biodiversity… It will be more important to protect open spaces in the future, as the population of parts of the city increases and brings added pressure on existing resources.

(Our bold.)

The Craighouse Partnership likes to argue it is now private land. However, the Edinburgh Local Plan states very plainly that both public and private land designated Open Space should be protected. The Craighouse Partnership knew this when they bought the site. We will be returning to the Edinburgh Local Plan and examining the numerous policies contravened by these proposals in subsequent articles.

Conservation Area Character Appraisal

The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal  is a very important document in planning terms and will inform the decision-making process so we will be referring to this a lot in coming articles:

“The protection of an area does not end with conservation area designation…The planning authority and the Scottish Executive are obliged to protect conservation areas from development that would adversely affect their special character.”

Here are a few quotes from the Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal gives you a flavour of  just how important and unique this site is, the character that must be protected – exemplified by Craighouse as a whole –  and just why this site is so heavily protected:

From the Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal.

“ a mosaic of habitats which are exceptional within a city environment”

“significant cluster of Victorian institutions…within a very high quality landscape and topographical setting”

“The Craighouse site retains its superb open aspects, most notably, from the east”

“extensive panoramic views of Edinburgh, across the Firth of Forth and to the hills beyond.”

“Views to the Hills from Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill and Edinburgh Castle are also spectacular”

“high quality Victorian buildings are set against a predominantly wooded hill, the woodlands emphasising the visual prominence of the site over the local surrounding area”

The Edinburgh Council Survey of Gardens and Designed Landscapes 2007:

This survey was undertaken to survey areas under threat from development and its findings are also considered important in terms of planning and decision-making. It says:

“Craighouse is significant as the site of Old Craig, for the buildings of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum and its associated social history…but perhaps most of all for its presence in views within Edinburgh and its accessibility to the people of the locality”

Conclusion – for now

We hope that serves as some introduction to how important Craighouse is in planning terms and some of the documents we will be looking at in subsequent articles.

Allowing the proposed excessive new-build development over the protected landscape of such an important site would set a precedent that would affect the future of every green and historic site across Edinburgh.

Craighouse is no ordinary site. It is unusually unspoilt historic site of Great Landscape Value on Edinburgh’s seventh hill and a key feature of our city. This fabulous historic green hill site must be preserved.


About friendsofcraighouse

A local group wanting to preserve the beautiful Craighouse Campus site in Edinburgh.
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5 Responses to Planning Article 1 – Designations, Protections and Key Documents

  1. Graham says:

    This article should leave no one in any doubt about how protected this site is and how valued it is by the people of Edinburgh. Its unique characteristics must be preserved for the pleasure and well being of current and future generations. The community is making its opposition to excessive development clear. Planning officals, councillors and politicians, and other statutory bodies entrusted with protecting our heritage and green space MUST act together for the benefit of our community.

  2. rosyb says:

    Thanks, Graham. It is overwhelming going through the policies just how special this site is and how protected it should really be according to all these policies. On the Conservation Appraisal, on amenity, on wildlife, and that is not even counting the setting of Grade A listed buildings – which is a massively important protection also. Then there is traffic and roads which we will also be posting a piece about – parking, which I think everyone knows to be a major problem and views.

    I could go on and on. And I will. In due course with this series of articles. I think everyone who loves the site will be further comforted to know how it fits everything that should be protected in policy terms in all the documents we have looked at.

  3. Pingback: Planning Article 3: Skyline Views Out from the Site | Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood

  4. Pingback: Craighouse Campus – planning discussions continue : The Edinburgh Reporter

  5. Regan says:

    Can I simply just say what a relief to discover someone who truly knows what they’re discussing on the web.
    You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More people really need to read this and understand this side of the story.
    I was surprised you’re not more popular because you certainly have the gift.

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