Our local politicians have failed to convince those in their own parties in power that they should support the community and not an off-shore tax-avoiding property speculator. They have failed to ensure that officials follow their own planning rules, policies and regulations. So what is next?
We have been told by the officials that our only option is Judicial Review, i.e., taking the decision to court. So many rules were broken in this case that we have an abundance of options for judicial review. We are working through the process of legal advice and have started fundraising for a full legal process.
Craighouse has achieved possibly the highest ever level of public engagement in a planning application in Scottish history. Thousands of people wrote in to planners and politicians urging them to do better for Edinburgh’s Seven Hills. Local politicians and community councils supported the community. National and local organizations supported the community in its desire to protect a beautiful site and its wildlife. But thousands of voters, experts, rafts of policies, rules and regulations is seemingly no match for millions of pounds of untaxed investment and the commercial lobbying that supports it.
The system was massively stacked against the community, with lobbyists and the developer having easy access to the planning committee and the public mostly shut out. The planning committee were presented with one-sided and inaccurate information by both the developer and by officials.
Over the next few weeks we will be writing up how the commercial lobbying system worked, with some examples. We will be highlighting how little the political system regulates lobbyists and how it hides the extent to which it depends on commercial lobbying to fund parties. And we will show how commercial lobbyists get access treatment to politicians, while communities are banned from talking to most politicians.
We will also be writing up the inaccurate information presented to the planning committee, by both developer and officials. And also highlighting how much secret information was presented to the planning committee away from public scrutiny.
This, we hope, will help future campaigners deliver real political reform in this country. Ensuring communities have greater power over their environment and that officials and politicians focus on delivering public benefits, such as affordable housing for ordinary families, and not gated communities and private profit for tax-avoiding investment funds.