The Edinburgh Reporter published an article yesterday. It reports on questions in Holyrood about Napier and Craighouse and also that The Craighouse Partnership have applied to amend the conditions of the Section 75 agreement (attached to the consent we reported on two articles ago) in order to delay payments to the Council – perhaps indefinitely.
More on that Holyrood question later – but for the moment, an update on the consent issue.
Some weeks ago, we revealed that the Craighouse Partnership had claimed to have activated a decade old planning consent. This consent was provisionally granted to Napier University in 2002, to build a 80,000sq foot Creative Arts building plus carpark, and was subject to a legal agreement being put in place between Napier and the Council. Oddly, while the terms of the legal agreement were laid out in 2002 the legal agreement itself was not signed by Napier until a full 5 years later in 2007. Yet another 5 years on, in May 2012, the Craighouse Partnership claimed to have activated the planning permission by commencing operations on the site. In essence, they dug a hole and filled it in again, but the council appear to have accepted this as a valid commencement.
Both the developers and the council say that mature trees and parts of the woodland can be cut down as a result – even though there is no obligation on the developers to actually build the building they have gained planning permission for. We were also told they could put in a new carpark.
This demonstrates how careless waiving of planning protections for an individual “special case” (in this case “the needs of the university” in 2002) actually puts a historically important site under long-term threat of property speculation. This is a warning also for any future “deals” which can be exploited for other ends.
Below is a summary which will explain what has happened, the implications, and why this is so important.
- The normal paperwork for a planning consent has been missing, inaccessible or very hard to obtain – in some cases for many years. It is only thanks to the tenaciousness of our volunteers that we have finally managed to track some things we were told didn’t exist down. The council officials gave the final consent more than 5 years after councillors originally provisionally approved it in 2002, 2007 being a time when Napier had already decided to sell Craighouse and abandon their plans for the site. Why did this happen?
- The normal public oversight for a controversial planning consent like this does not seem to have been applied
- The waiving of many of the conditions seems to have been pushed through in the last available weeks in June this year against many of the rules that are supposed to protect the site and against much of what was stated in the original consent and section 75 contract.
- To “activate” the consent, the work must start within the rules in the consent. It did not, so legally, the consent should be treated as having expired.
Without challenging the council’s actions, the Craighouse site could be left as an unfinished building site for many years.
Along with the planning permission to build a University Arts Facility, the Craighouse Partnership has also inherited the legal agreement originally signed by Napier and the conditions attached to it. Many of these conditions were designed to protect the site – and have apparently already been waived by the Council, without proper stated reasons.
Now, The Craighouse Partnership have applied to the council planners to relax the payment dates – of the payments they are legally obliged to make, totalling £180,000. The delay may be many years, or the payments may never be made if The Craighouse Partnership decides to sell the site on to someone else, as they have indicated they may do. In their application to defer the payments dates, the Craighouse Partnership provide no materially significant reason for requesting the delay, other than to say that “ the objective being to reduce the burden on developers in order to stimulate development “.
It is this issue that the Edinburgh Reporter article reported on yesterday (see link at top of this post).
We have notified both the Council and The Craighouse Partnership that we will be formally challenging the granting of the consent in 2007, the discharging of conditions on the site, the application for modification of the Section 75 agreement, and for the claim that there was a lawful start to the project.
We will be having a meeting with the Council officials about this matter next week and we hope to update you further then and also will go into some of this information in more detail for your information.
Rest of the Campaign Still on Track
We would like to reassure you that although this is a big and important issue – we are not taking our eye off the ball in terms of any forthcoming application from The Craighouse Partnership for their proposed housing development.
People continue to hand in petitions and we have over Five and a Half Thousand (5500) local signatures.
We have been working hard (hence our silence!) compiling research on planning and policies undertaken over the past year and have compiled a series of planning articles – this will cover everything from the protections, policies and key documents that affect the decision-making process to the enabling development and financial arguments, which have been researched at length. Much of this information will form the basis of the Friends of Craighouse objection letter, which we will also make available to everyone to view when the time comes. We hope this will form a useful basis of knowledge for anyone looking to find out more about the site, the policies and precedent – and prime us all for when the application goes in.
We cannot know in advance when the planning application will go in. Indications that the application will go in during the summer seem to be morphing to the autumn – the developers saying “a couple of months” to residents at recent invitation only meetings.
We cannot know when – but we will do our best to make sure everyone knows when it does.