Timeline for planning application 01/04599/FUL
In June 2012 The Craighouse Partnership claimed to have activated a decade-old consent for this 80,000 sq ft university building by digging a “trench” and filling it in again. The Council waived associated pre-conditions that would have protected the site. The Craighouse Partnership are now applying to change the conditions further so as to delay, maybe indefinitely, having to pay the associated costs to the Council to the tune of £180,000.
We met with the Council planners last week who confirmed that this consent would allow removal of mature woodland, the putting in of carparking and infrastructure – in short the site could be left in a mess without any obligation to build the associated institutional building. Although this could also be built. This consent would last in perpetuity.
The Friends of Craighouse are preparing a formal complaint to the Council. We are also unhappy about the lack of transparency and unavailability of paperwork that should have been in the public archives.
- Napier University purchased the Craighouse site in 1994.
- Around £14 million of public funds were granted to Napier to carry out refurbishment of the existing buildings between 1994 -1996, and Napier fully moved onto the site in 1996.
- In 2001, as part of their then Estates Strategy, Napier applied for planning permission to develop a new Arts Facility Building at Craighouse. Although controversial, planning permission was provisionally granted in May 2002 because it was a planning application by a university to specifically develop university facilities.
However, as the timeline below shows, in subsequent changes to their Estates Strategy from 2006, Napier decided to abandon their development plans for Craighouse. Instead, they decided to redevelop their Sighthill Campus. However, in conjunction with the Council, Napier pressed on with securing planning permission for Craighouse – planning permission they knew they would never use !
Any attempt by speculative developers ( incl Napier themselves ) to use this planning permission for residential development would be entirely inappropriate.
Here is a timeline we have put together from our understanding to explain what has happened. We would be happy to hear from anyone in relation to this.
20 December 2001 –Planning application received and validated by City Of Edinburgh Council (Thursday just before Christmas holidays)
15 May 2002 – Development Quality Sub-Committee grant conditional planning permission subject to a Section 75 Legal Agreement.
4 August 2006 – 01/04599 not included amongst other applications in report from Planning officials to the Planning Committee. This was a report to recommend to grant permission to Napier to erect a memorial in the grounds at Craighouse. They give a long list of prior planning applications and consents, but miss out 01/04599/FUL.
2006 Napier Estates strategy outlines intention to dispose of Craighouse campus
26 Mar 2007 – Napier appoint architects to design a new Sighthill Campus
14 May 2007 – Section 75 Legal Agreement signed by Napier University 5 years after the Planning Committee met
23 May 2007 – Listed Building Consent 01/04599/LBC expires. (Without this consent, the project cannot be completed in line with the original plans and the planning consent stated that work could not start until other consents – such as LBC – obtained)
6 June 2007 – Section 75 Legal Agreement signed by Council, despite Napier not being able to complete the project due to the expiry of the Listed Building Consent, and Napier’s new strategy to sell the site – both material changes. Officials do not refer this decision back to the planning committee. Over 5 years after the Planning Committee met.
25 June 2007 – Section 75 agreement lodged at Registers Of Scotland
26 June 2007 – Planning Dept issue Final Decision Notice granting planning permission for 01/04599/FUL (over 5 years on from that decision by the planning committee in 2002). Development to be commenced no later than 5 years from this date.
25 Mar 2011 – Napier announce the sale of Craighouse has taken place
During 2011, and 2012, the Friends make a series of visits to the planning archive to see the Section 75 and planning consent. We find an incomplete Section 75, and no planning consent. We also make a series of Freedom of Information Requests to Napier for paperwork connected to this consent – they say they have no files.
8 June 2012 – Montagu Evans ( developers’ agent) submits a set of plans to Planning Dept to protect the site during work, as required by the original consent. This includes a tree protection plan, landscape management plan, and a scheme of investigation for archaeological evaluation.
14 June 2012 – Planning Dept. write to Montagu Evans ( developers’ agent ) accepting the submitted plans, and as a result, discharge a number of the conditions to protect the site included in the planning consent.
21 June 2012 Montagu Evans write to Planning Dept. submitting an Application For Modification Of Planning Obligations. This is an application to delay, perhaps indefinitely, the payments they are required to make by the Section 75 Legal Agreement concluded in June 2007 that amount to £180,000. The public copy of the application includes a copy of the Section 75 agreement, minus the page with the signatures and dates and two conditions.
22 June 2012 – Work commences on Craighouse site with a trench being excavated. The trench measures 3.0m (l) x 0.5m (d) x 0.3m (w). The trench is stated by Montagu Evansas being “within the area of the approved car park”. Despite being submitted and agreed only days before no work described in the tree protection plan, landscape management plan, or scheme of investigation for archaeological evaluation is performed, – other than a city archaeologist looks into the trench and notes he saw “significant root action”.
25 June 2012 – Planning Dept. representative visits the Craighouse site and “noted signs of activity in the potential car park area”
28 June 2012 – Council official writes to Montagu Evans to ask what work had been done and confirm “whether action has been taken to take up the consent” and if action has been taken, to provide evidence as to where, when and “what the work entailed”.
25 June 2012 – Expiry of the 5 year planning permission period from date of Final Decision Notice ( 26.06.07 )
05 July 2012 – Planning Dept. write to Montagu Evans to “accept the evidence that the planning permission had been taken up within the statutory period”
6 July 2012 – Friends of Craighouse visit the archives again and see the actual planning consent for the first time – on top of the file.
We receive a letter from Planning in reply to enquiries to say there are no private files and that all documents are either on the portal or in the archive.
10 September 2012 – The full Section 75 Legal Agreement finally becomes viewable on the Planning Portal and is taken off “private”. We understand that prior to this date the document had a status of not for public view, a highly contentious state of affairs.
There are a few things that are strange about this timeline:
- At no point are the Listed Building Consent and Planning Consent “live” at the same time, so there is no point at which the project can be legally completed.
- The paperwork for this planning application is unavailable to the public for a considerable period of time. We only find the actual consent after the work has started, and only get hold of a completed and signed version of the Section 75 agreement after months of searching and repeated letters and complaints to the planning department.
- Work starts by a property developer more than 10 years after the planning committee voted to allow work to start within 5 years “for the requirements of the university”. Work starts without any of the critical conditions (tree protection, landscape management, listed building consent, or archaeological investigation) being properly implemented.
- Nothing is referred back to the planning committee by officials, despite significant changes occurring to the original reasons for allowing the consent in the first place.