On Tuesday night, 27 Nov, a packed meeting organised by Craiglockhart Community Council brought to the fore overwhelming local anger over the recent planning application submitted by The Craighouse Partnership for the redevelopment of Craighouse Campus.
Everything these days seems to be recorded “live as it happens” on Twitter and this meeting was no different, the first tweets being posted just as the meeting started:
“At Craiglockhart Community Council meeting, where objections to proposed development of Craighouse Campus will be heard. Around 200 here”.
The local interest was clearly intense with an attendance probably 10 times or more that of an average Craiglockhart meeting. In another early tweet, local councillor Gavin Corbett noted
“Very big turnout for Craiglockhart Community Council tonight to discuss #Craighouse”.
Craiglockhart Community Council had rightly billed the meeting with the promise “We want to inform you as residents of the proposals and in turn receive feedback from you so that we can onward report your collective views to the City Council” . They certainly received feedback, and the collective views of those who attended should provide a powerful message for the community council to report on to the City Council.
A representative from Edinburgh’s Civic Trust, The Cockburn Association, Euan Leitch, was invited to speak and explain the planning proposals. One of the primary objectives of the Cockburn is:
“the protection and preservation of the City’s landscape and historic and architectural heritage”
and with their remit and knowledge and experience of historic and heritage sites, they were a good choice to present the plans. Euan Leitch’s task was not an easy one to carry out without showing bias for or against, but it was pretty much appreciated that a balanced explanation was achieved and the format of having an outside independent yet knowledgeable individual there to answer questions was a very good call by The Craiglockhart Community Council.
Murmurs of discontent over the plans were audible throughout the presentation, particularly as maps of the proposed areas for new build flashed across the screen and also when the images of the new buildings were displayed.
Dave Owen tweeted with astonishment that:
“The developers’ rendered images of what they want to do with #Craighouse make it look like the University of Milton Keynes in 1988”.
In a key moment, there were gasps around the room as the audience saw the 8 storey tower block proposed for the top of the site. Local Councillor Gavin Corbett tweeted:
“Sharp intake of breath at Craiglockhart CC when local residents see new mini-tower block planned for highest point of #Craighouse”
Then, it was onto questions and comments from the residents and they didn’t hold back. Residents voiced deep concern over the precedent that was being set for other protected sites in Edinburgh. Euan replied that although planners will say there is not a precedent, that developers would always argue on precedent.
People were concerned about The Craighouse Partnership’s dereliction threats. Someone from the floor said that this was a nonsense and that Edinburgh City Council has the power to force the owners to maintain the existing buildings to avoid this sort of scenario. Euan Leitch agreed that Edinburgh Council does indeed have such powers. Another resident said that the Council should be pressured to do this.
There was deep worry from residents that there was a very real risk that the development could go ahead and not complete – leaving not just the fear of dereliction but risk of dereliction plus a ruined building site with restricted access into the bargain. Journalist Joanna Blythman warned that Craighouse could repeat Quartermile’s situation – old buildings derelict and empty new flats.
Another resident brought up the issue of the 2 metre high metal mesh fence through the woodland – “like a prison”.
Another resident said it looked like a speculative bid that had just been pushed through.
“What trumps conservation?” one resident asked. (As Dave Owen tweeted: ““Trump” is perhaps a loaded verb in this country”)
MSP Alison Johnstone wanted to know about cars and carparking – where are the 323 car-parking spaces going to go? Where is the commitment to bicycles and public transport – the car-parking alone would completely alter the nature of this beautiful site.
Of everyone who spoke at the meeting – all, except for one person, spoke out strongly against the plans.
Twice, there was a call for a vote to be taken. But this opportunity was turned down by the Chair.
But the conclusion was unavoidable.
“The Craiglockhart CC mtg this eve was lively as anticipated” tweeted Council Leader, Andrew Burns, diplomatically.
“Much opposition to loss of this protected site,” tweeted MSP Alison Johnstone.
But it was left to Councillor Gavin Corbett who summed it all up:
“Well that was pretty clear-cut. At Craiglockhart CC packed meeting on #Craighouse only one resident spoke in favour of the plans”
The Craiglockhart community does not accept these plans. It’s now up to Craiglockhart Community Council to represent the community view to the Council.
This is exactly what the developers planned for The Edinburgh Zoo development. Distract attention with a big tower block block at top of hill, then delete tower block, get all other elements of development approved without a peep. Classic.