Last week, Scheme 2 was pulled just 3 weeks before the planning committee were to decide on it.
The planning department was inundated with rejections – it is believed even more than last year which was already a record for Edinburgh planning. Thanks to everyone who wrote in – the support for the site was incredible and sent a very clear message in support of those important policies and protections on the site.
The latest application was almost certainly going to be recommended for rejection by the planning department.
If, as planned, the application had been brought to a public decision in March, then a clear ‘no’ would have meant the developers putting in a greatly reduced scheme that concentrated on the listed buildings, or else triggered the sale of the site.
Any new buyer would make sure that they had a clearly thought-out financially viable plan for the site and its buildings that was respectful of the planning protections and the views of the community. We know there are buyers interested and even the Craighouse Partnership admit that converting the existing buildings is profitable.
Instead, it appears that a small inner circle within the council have gone back on their commitment to make a decision in March and have condemned the site to at least 8 more months (probably more) of dereliction threats and arguments about how many millions of pounds of profit Mountgrange, Napier and their army of consultants, agents and lobbyists should be allowed to take out of this protected site by driving a coach and horses through important planning policies and protections.
Whilst it is good news that Scheme 2 is no more – and that is a credit to everyone who wrote in to defend this very special place, the actions of the Council is extremely worrying. The decision to give these incompetent developers a third bite of the cherry – it seems – came from the top.
This application is the third time the Craighouse Partnership have submitted plans to the Council. These include Scheme 1 (“factually incorrect” “incompetent” and “inaccurate”), the revised enabling case information and further corrections issued to Scheme 1 and then Scheme 2.
If Scheme 1 was factually incorrect and inaccurate – Scheme 2 leaves it in the shade in terms of the poorness of the information, inaccuracy of the accompanying images and plans, and the errors in the figures.
Scottish Natural Heritage highlighted alarming problems with the wildlife information submitted: protected wildlife information that was known to the developer has apparently disappeared from the reports. We want to know why.
The flood prevention team in the council have provided a summary of the very serious deficiencies in the flood prevention strategy (including the plans linking to a drain they have no knowledge of even existing!). It outlines the real risks of flooding caused by more buildings and carparking on the site.
The transport department call for an outright rejection of the application – listing a long list of deficiencies in the application.
In addition to the public – the Cockburn Association have slammed the application – calling for Napier to have to repay the vast public sums (many millions) it received for the site if this application went ahead. All 3 local Community Councils objected in very strong terms – along with other Community Councils, groups and experts from across the city.
It is clear the Scheme 2 application was an absolute mess and opposition huge.
There is no way the Council could have passed it and there is no way the Craighouse Partnership would have got it on appeal either – as has long been the threat.
The question that remains is: has the Council allowed the failure of this application to be buried and are they enabling the Craighouse Partnership to try and correct the myriad mistakes and incompetencies in order to try and force this or a version of these appalling plans through?
Have the Council gone against their own public commitment that this would go to a decision – in the face of overwhelming criticism from the many expert reports and the application’s likely rejection by the planning department – to allow the Craighouse Partnership to try and bury the damaging evidence? Has there been any political interference in this decision? Why was this decision not run past the planning committee at their most recent meeting?
The Craighouse Partnership have comprehensively failed to prove there is any enabling development case at Craighouse. They want to make it an “enabling development” because they want to turn a profitable, modest development that would secure both buildings and landscape into a much riskier near £100-million development – that will take millions upon millions out of the site for Mountgrange, Napier and their army of consultants and lobbyists.
We will be going into a lot more detail on the large number of serious errors in this planning application and asking why this small inner circle of people within the council are bending over backwards to help a development consortium who have proved themselves incompetent and untrustworthy 3 times now.
The planning department have now condemned the site to more months of being held to ransom by The Craighouse Partnership – and more dereliction threats.
It is up to us as a community to force the Council to make sure these buildings are being maintained. And to make them answer for their actions.
Who is defending the city’s most precious spaces? And who is defending the protections on those spaces?
We are developing our alternative plan – and will be calling on our politicians to attend a special meeting to tell us what exactly they are doing to help the site – and how they are going to actively work with the community to achieve a real vision for the site.
Can it be done?