SKYLINE: Views into the Site
‘One of the seven groups of hills which give great distinctiveness to the city….part of the basic structure and character of the city.” The hills give legibility and identity to the city and to its component parts. They provide outstanding backgrounds, settings, landmarks, and views in themselves and over a wide extent of the city and beyond.’ (The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal)
In the second of our planning articles, we are looking at views. Craighouse is extremely important in terms of skyline and views. So much so, we have split this article into two for ease and due to length: Views into the Site and Views Out of the Site. We will be posting Views Out of the Site very soon.
Situated on one of Edinburgh’s famous seven hills, which form a major part of the City’s character and a backdrop to views across the city, Craighouse is a stunning, remarkably unspoilt hilltop sight prominent in views and aspects both locally and citywide.
It features significantly in the views from many of Edinburgh’s other hills, such as Arthur’s Seat, The Castle, Blackford Hill, the Braid Hills, as well as numerous high points and buildings around the city. It is also a stunning feature in many local views. The lush green lawns and fantastic buildings have been described as being like a “fairy dell” from these vantage points.
The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal:
“Views to the Hills from Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill and Edinburgh Castle are also spectacular, in particular to Easter Craighlockhart Hill on which high quality Victorian buildings are set against a predominantly wooded hill ”
“The Craighouse site retains its superb open aspects, most notably, from the east.”
Views to and from the site feature heavily in the Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal – an important document which we introduced in our last article.
Craighouse is protected as an Area of Great Landscape Value in a Conservation Area. The planning authority and the Scottish Executive are obliged to protect Conservation Areas from development that would adversely affect their special character, so that character, outlined in the Character Appraisal, is extremely important in planning terms. On views into the site it says:
Another important document, The Edinburgh Council Survey of Gardens and Landscape 2007 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” (our bold)
“Views to and from the study area are of outstanding importance” (Simpson and Brown Conservation Audit for Napier University)
Old Craig (the pink building right) is the oldest building on the site and is a prominent feature in many views into the site. The proposals for a huge “courtyard development” in front of it – taking out green space and woodland – would spoil not just the setting but destroy the views of this historic feature from outside the site. Large modern Oberlander blocks in the woodland opposite New Craig and more building around the listed buildings near Queens Craig would ruin the romance of the woodland backdrop and singular setting of New Craig (contrary to the Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Appraisal), while the orchard development would clearly spoil an important topographical feature (also contrary to the CHCA appraisal – see policies below). The excessive new-build currently proposed would urbanise what is now a romantic and important city feature.*
This picture (right) shows a part of the orchard development in the foreground with New Craig surrounded by more substantial amounts of new-build behind. The 4 or 5 storey apartment blocks will be clearly visible from outside the site and take out part of the woodland – which forms the backdrop to New Craig in views. The orchard is a key topographical feature and therefore to build at all here is completely contrary to policy.
*note: commentary is based on the last set of proposals presented to the general public at exhibition. We cannot know what the plans will look like when submitted – however, the “alternative” masterplan at the exhibitions did not reduce the levels of new-build – which are clearly excessive – but placed the orchard development down the East side of the green space instead – again ruining the key protected area of the landscape that is the open green space, identified as one of the most important areas in terms of landscape character in the Simpson and Brown Conservation report and the spoiling views in and out of the site.
Relevant policies and key documents in relation to views both to and from the site:
- ECLP Policy OS1 (Protection of Open Space) presumes against loss of open space unless it can meet five tests. The first test is that: ‘There will be no significant impact on the quality or character of the local environment’.
- The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal states that the essential character of the area is derived from its significant cluster of Victorian institutions set within a very high quality landscape and topographic setting.
- It also states “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 Landscape Character Assessment describes it as a “prominent urban hill”, part of a series of distinctive hills in Edinburgh that contribute to form the character of the city.
- Env 11 (Landscape Quality) presumes against development which would damage or detract from the character or appearance of the AGLV [Area of Great Landscape Value], prominent ridges or other important topographical features.
- The Edinburgh Survey of Gardens and Designed Landscapes 2007 notes that the site is significant for its listed buildings and associated social history but particularly for its presence within views of Edinburgh and its accessibility for locals.
- Edinburgh Skyline Study identifies Easter Craiglockhart Hill as a Key view to the Castle (S4b) which cannot be seen from the summit but from the open area to the south of the campus.
- The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Appraisal recognises: “The far-reaching and panoramic views.’