LONG-AWAITED plans to create a hidden underground car park outside one of Scotland's leading visitor attractions are in disarray amid confusion over who owns the land on which the scheme will be sited.
Council leaders have admitted the project – work on which was due to begin later this year – faces lengthy delays because the local authority may not be the owners. The car park outside the Royal Museum in Edinburgh was to be the first of its kind of Scotland and based on a system commonplace in Italian cities such as Rome and Milan. Motorists entering such car parks pay for a space through a computer panel. Once out of the car, a computer-controlled lift takes the vehicle underground, where it is parked automatically.When the owner returns, the car is automatically brought back up to an exit bay. It takes an average of just 50 seconds to either park or retrieve a car. The car parks are monitored from a central control room via CCTV.
Lawyers are being drafted in to check records dating back hundreds of years. It is thought part of the land could be "common good" and the council may face a legal challenge if it tries to use it for what would be a commercial development.Edinburgh City Council has come under fire for mismanaging millions of pounds worth of common-good assets, donated to the city by philanthropists or formerly owned by royal burghs for more than 100 years.
The council has only recently put the contract to run the Chambers Street car park out to tender. The existing 89 parking bays would be replaced by 100 underground spaces built on either side of the statue of William Chambers. It was intended as a pilot which, if successful, was to pave the way for future schemes on George Street and Melville Crescent.
One council insider admitted the issues over land ownership on Chambers Street had only recently been discovered, but were threatening to derail the entire car park scheme in the area.He said: "It's a massive headache. "It's not entirely clear who owns the land below Chambers Street and it will be a fairly Byzantine process to get to the bottom of it."Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: "We're aware of the car park proposal. But we're not in a position to assess the likely impact upon both the National Museum of Scotland and the plans for redevelopment of the Royal Museum building." Councillor Tom Buchanan, economic development leader at the council, explained: "Land ownership in the city centre is complex due to numerous owners over a considerable length of time.
The Canongate Project
Tonight at the project shop at 8 St Marys St is a talk by Chris Cook on Community Land Partnerships from 7-9pm
More on this tomorrow