Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Demand continues to Call-IN Caltongate

Latest News is that yes, the plans have been rubber stamped this afternoon!
Hear the city`s design champion Sir Terry Farrel speak of the problems facing Edinburgh on the BBC Radio Good Morning Scotland programme from earlier today Listen at 2 hrs 22 mins
STV will be covering it on thier local news programme Scotland Today at 6pm

Groundhog Day at City Chambers

This afternoon the Caltongate Applications go to committee once again, six months late due to yet another council error!! It has been recommended again they be rubber stamped then referred to ministers once more. With the increased awareness of the potential damage to the capital from Caltongate and other proposed developments, the ministers will surely see reason and Call the Plans in. Otherwise its bye bye Athens of the North. See yesterdays post on repeated call-in request by Msps.

This excellent letter from Jim Johnson an architect for close on 50 years, and former Director of the Edinburgh Old Town Renewal Trust sums up why the plans should be called- in-

Alex Salmond MSP
First Minister
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh 20 August 2008

Dear Minister,

Caltongate Planning Applications: 07/01287/FUL, 07/04400/FUL, 07/01237/FUL, 07/01288/FUL, and 07/01241/FUL.

I received a letter from the City of Edinburgh dated 6 August giving the opportunity to objectors to make further representations about this application. A number of mistakes have been made by the planning department during the consultation and processing of these applications. Circumstances have changed since the Council made its decision. The importance of the site, the complexity of the issues and the conflict of interests between the Council as a partner in the development and as the planning authority, clearly shows the need for an independent, impartial review of the whole masterplan process and the subsequent determination of the planning applications.

I request that the applications be called-in by the Scottish Ministers for the following reasons:

1. The international concern over the potential damage to the Edinburgh World Heritage site has been demonstrated (subsequent to the determination of the applications by the City Council) by the decision of UNESCO to send a delegation to examine the position in Edinburgh. UNESCO has expressed concern that the Council may have acted wrongly in approving the development without referring to UNESCO before taking a decision. The threat to the City’s World Heritage status was highlighted by many who opposed the masterplan and the detailed planning applications, but their view was steadfastly rejected and rubbished by the Council. The objectors have been proved right.

2. The Council’s justification for the departure from the statutory Structure Plan and national planning policies is that the development will achieve economic and employment benefits. But the benefits listed are purely speculative and remain untested by any impartial expert assessment. Most of the benefits are based on highly contentious information provided by the developer and consultants employed by him. There is no evidence that they have been tested or analysed in any detail by the planning authority. Given the downturn in the economy since the original applications were lodged, the claimed benefits have become even more questionable and need to be re-examined.

3. The developer has demonstrated no commitment to a genuine consultation process. He has repeatedly stated that the scheme (particularly the hotel, its most contentious and damaging element) is an “all or nothing” development, and refused to consider a phased approach to this very large site. In addition, the setting up of a “consultation group” (invited and administered by the developer) only sought to manipulate the consultation process to the developer’s advantage and avoid the implementation of the National Standards for Community Engagement. The City Council has acquiesced to this sham.

4. The government’s commitment to a more sustainable future for Scotland (eg. by cutting carbon emissions) and the City’s aspirations to become an exemplar for sustainable city life, are both undermined by the Caltongate proposals. As presented the scheme is very far from an example of sustainable “best practice” despite the claims in the developer’s Sustainability Appraisal, which is no more than a “green wash” over the design (I submitted a detailed critique of this appraisal to the Council dated 7 May 2006). I can only conclude that the planning department lack the resources (or time) to analyse the veracity of the submitted proposals.

5. The Council claims the Caltongate development is “is of outstanding design quality” I would dispute this. I have been in practice as an architect for close on 50 years, latterly as Director of the Edinburgh Old Town Renewal Trust. I am not a “preservationist” - I believe that new developments in historic cities should be in a contemporary style, reflecting modern requirements and materials. But this proposal falls well short of the standard that should be aimed for in Edinburgh. I have rarely seen a more banal overall design, and am at a loss how the City can consider that “the quality of the urban design solution will enhance the Conservation area, the Edinburgh World Heritage site and the setting of listed buildings” – particularly as the developer intends to demolish the listed buildings!

Yours faithfully,

Jim Johnson
Dip. Arch. ARIAS

This excellent letter is in today`s Scotsman 27 Aug 08

Stand firm against those who would sacrifice capital's heritage status

I am disappointed by reactions to Unesco's comments about proposed developments within the designated world heritage site in Edinburgh (Focus, 26 August). I would have expected some fervour, yet have heard none.

We are talking about a world heritage site – not a Lothian heritage site nor even a British one – of such importance within the built and natural heritage of this planet that it has been picked out for an accolade and recognition as being among the finest things in the world. Yet to hear current debate it would appear little more than a nuisance.

I can imagine the clamour were other world heritage sites to come under such ill-considered attack. The Macchu Pichu Hilton? Go-karting amongst the chicanes of Stonehenge? BMX parks over the pyramids?

Yet here we are happy to see a prime site let to commercial developers in a way that would be hardly acceptable in a minor provincial town. This, too, with defence from the city fathers and the Chamber of Commerce. Members of the chamber, I would suggest, do not all work in offices, but are interested to see the premium visitors and companies attracted here because Edinburgh is still well worth visiting and living in. What Chamber has to say 25 Aug 08

Edinburgh is a lived-in and living city, and must never be frozen in time. It must, however, recognise that it is, like Prague and Florence, greater than the sum of its parts. To begin to erode and then to replace with dull, pedestrian – but no doubt commercially viable – buildings is not only cruel, it is shortsighted and shows a total misunderstanding of this place.

We should be proud of this city; it is unique. While current attitudes to Unesco's observations prevail, we can hardly complain about the tatty tourist shops, unweeded pavements and traffic chaos. These could be settled at a stroke. Beginning the destruction of a world heritage site in the name of commerce is no less than authorised vandalism and I am astonished that we are not out in our thousands marching to save our beautiful city from yet more misguided and substandard "developments".

There always is a stronger commercial argument, but many cities have recognised that this can be short-term gain for a very long-term loss, and have master-planned to save the blight.

Edinburgh more than justifies its Unesco recognition, and to many of us this matters. We are tenants of this city, not owner-occupiers; let's try not to mess it up too much for future generations.

DAVID GERRARD Spylaw Park Edinburgh

The pro-active role of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce in promoting the development Caltongate Developer Manish Chande is head of the Chamber`s property portfolio group and in the past in The Evening News Ron Hewitt of Chambers Roots For Caltongate

But as we all can see from this Article Ron Hewitt likes writing fiction --

"It sounds bizarre, but Ron Hewitt, who took over the reins at the chamber earlier this year, writes novels about a murderer of paedophiles in his spare time."