As you will know if you’ve read our other posts on this issue, The Friends have had serious difficulties obtaining paperwork relating to the 2002/7 consent – a consent that the Craighouse Partnership are claiming to have activated to build an 80,000sq ft university building plus carparking over protected greenspace and woodland by digging a trench and filling it in again.
A number of documents were unavailable or missing, but – for the moment – let’s concentrate on one.
One of our chief difficulties was getting hold of a full copy of the full section 75 agreement – which was not signed until 2007 and therefore a key part of this whole sorry mess.
A section 75 – for those that don’t know – is the contract that needs to be signed before permission signed off on and granted.
Despite this being a public document – the Council kept the full section 75 from the public – showing the public an incomplete copy with information missing whilst retaining a full copy put on “private” on the portal so that only the planning officials – but not the public – could see it.
This should not have happened.
So why keep it private? And what was on the missing part?
What was missing was the signatories and some dates.
Interestingly, the date the S75 was signed was mentioned in a letter from the planning department to ourselves. They said the section 75 was signed on the 14th May 2007.
However, when we finally got hold of the full document, we found it was a slightly different story.
The contract was signed by Napier on the 14th May 2007. But it was not signed by the Council until the 6th June 2007. This took the conclusion of the contract to over five years after the original consent decision by the planning committee on the 15th May 2002.
The Council are trying to claim this doesn’t matter. However, there is also another factor. Something else happened between the dates of the 14th May and the 6th June 2007: The Listed Building Consent ran out.
As we have seen, the authoritative document on government policy, SHEP, says that the developers needed Listed Building Consent before commencing work. This means that the consent was granted despite the fact it could not be started legally.
Why would the Planning Department do this?
Planning is supposed to work in the public interest.
So, what on earth is going on?
The Craighouse Partnership didn’t have Listed Building Consent on the 22nd of June 2012 but Napier also didn’t have it on the 6th June 2007.
It has been confirmed to us that if there was a material change then the consent should have been returned to the elected representatives and not just waved through by officials.
The fact that the Listed Building Consent ran out before the Section 75 was signed in 2007 meant that there was a material change before that contract was signed. The development could not be completed and – further – Napier had already outlined plans to dispose of Craighouse in their 2006 Estates Strategy.
The system, you see, despite what the developers and some of our officials and Councillors would have you believe, does makes sense in this case. It is not a loophole of the system that creates the inappropriateness of granting an old consent for a university building to a development consortium looking to build excessive housing over a protected site. It is people who decide to do that. For some other reason altogether.
We need a whole lot more transparency about what on earth is going on at Craighouse.
But one thing is clear: there was no lawful start. The decision must be reversed.