Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Demand for Public Inquiry for Caltongate

You may or may not have received a letter dated 6th August from Alan Henderson, Head of Planning, City of Edinburgh Council. See Evening News 7th Aug 08

Even if you did not object first time around, or receive this particular letter do take this opportunity to make your voice count. The more emails that the council and government receive, the more they can`t ignore the obvious mass public objection to Caltongate. And remember you can write even if you don`t live in Edinburgh, you can be any age, nationality and live anywhere to comment on a planning application and remember World Heritage Sites are everyone`s to enjoy and protect.

The Canongate Community Forum (CCF) suggest that you email the following people letting them know your views on the scheme, our letter is below which we have sent to the council and government.

You can take guidance from this, although do not just copy and paste, put what you feel is important , you are welcome to say that you support the points raised by the Canongate Community Forum in their letter to ministers and council officials, in response to Alan Hendersons letter of 6th August 2008.

People to Email

All Cabinet Ministers includes Alex Salmond, use the following email address and mark top of email for attention of all Scottish Ministers. Remember to include your name and postal address in the body of this email otherwise it may get ignored or lost.


and copy c.c. this email to the Director of Planning in Scottish Government, CEC head of planning, CEC Caltongate case officer, the leader of council and the Forum , emails below -


then send the same email to

The following MSPs who have already expressed the need for a public inquiry.


You should also write to your own Msps, MP and MEPS use this link Write to them Scottish ones are listed even although it doesn't say on home page, you just enter your postcode and they will appear)

Letter to Scottish Ministers

The Canongate Community Forum
19th August 2008

Dear Minister

Caltongate Call- In

The Canongate Community Forum received a letter dated 6th August 2008 from Alan Henderson, Head of Planning and Strategy of CEC.

This letter should have been sent immediately following the Planning Committee’s decision on the 6th February 2008, not six months later.

As objectors to the Caltongate planning applications, we have been invited make comments on whether we consider our previous comments were properly dealt with, to provide comments on the statements of reasons for approving the applications and present any new evidence we believe should be considered.

The omission of the final consultation/feedback on statement of reasons is only one example of the mistakes made during the consultation and processing of these proposals (e.g. applications were never advertised as developments potentially contrary to the Development Plan) and demonstrates the lack of suitable resources and expertise of CEC to deal with such a large and complex proposal.

In light of this latest council error we demand that the proposed demolitions be halted. The notices are now void as they were applied before this part of the process was carried out. So the council should revoke these demolition notices as soon as possible. Given the current economic climate the demolitions could go ahead, whilst work on this particular scheme not undertaken. Only when the economy picks up the developer may sell on this cleared site with full planning consent?

The Statements of Reasons provided by the council do not provide adequate planning justification to breach National Planning policy and best practice (for listed buildings and conservation areas in particular).

The Canongate Community Forum would therefore like to take this opportunity to request the CALL-IN of the Caltongate Planning Applications.

Why a “Call – In” of Caltongate Plans by Scottish Ministers is required

The complexity of the issues and the ongoing conflict of interests between the Council as a developer and as the Planning Authority clearly demonstrate the need for an impartial independent review of the whole Caltongate masterplan process and subsequent determination of the planning applications. This can only be done through a Public Inquiry or Hearing undertaken by Reporters.

Reasons why -

1. The Planning Authority, The City of Edinburgh Council has a significant financial interest in the proposed development and as such cannot maintain the level of impartiality required to make an unbiased decision.

2. There is international concern. The Caltongate plans are potentially so damaging to the World Heritage Site that UNESCO decided at their Quebec Meeting in July this year, to send a delegation to the capital. UNESCO has expressed concern that CEC may have acted wrongly in agreeing to the development without, referring it first of all to UNESCO before a decision was taken. The proposed demolitions and design of replacement buildings will have a significant negative impact on the World Heritage Site and has been highlighted by many experts from impartial heritage organisations as well as the general public.

3. The land to be sold on East Market Street was not subject to fair and open competition and was sold for less than market value. The land on Calton Road was not identified as surplus to requirements by the council or offered on the open market for housing (which would have also required a contribution of 25% affordable housing in line with existing policy). Complaints have been made to both the Competition DG and the Internal market DG of the EU Commission, because of the extent that Mountgrange Caltongate Ltd may have been provided with privileged access and offered exclusive consideration in pursuance of its commercial objectives, it follows that competing bidders, both actual and potential, have been unlawfully discriminated against, and public resources unlawfully exposed to risk in this case. The office of the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU are to decide shortly whether to start an "infringement procedure" – which could lead all the way to the European courts.

4. Private gain seems to be taking precedent over the legitimate public interest.

5. The total demolition of the Grade C Listed Canongate Venture is against planning policy.

6. Edinburgh World Heritage Trust believes that this was a development which should not happen, and CEC is a signatory to the Management Plan for the World Heritage Site. Historic Scotland and CEC are both represented on the Board of Directors of Edinburgh World Heritage - conflict of interest?

7. Facade schemes are not in accordance with sound principles of conservation and remove much historic and architectural interest from a building, and so the claimed benefits could as easily be gained by a far more sympathetic development, retaining listed buildings and thus the authenticity of the World Heritage Site.

8. It is suggested in the statement of reasons that the justification for departing from the statutory Structure Plan and National planning policies and guidance is the achievement of certain benefits – but the economic and employment benefits listed are purely speculative and remain untested by any impartial expert assessment. Most of the benefits highlighted are based on highly inaccurate information provided by the developer and not through detailed analysis or research undertaken by the Planning Authority.

9. The Planning Authority cannot be seen to have behaved impartially - they have not given equal weight to material objections raised from numerous community and heritage organisations and objectors but have chosen to favour the heavily biased opinion, and purely speculative benefits, provided by the developer and a local business organisation shortly after the developer Manish Chande was appointed Chair of their Property Policy Group (Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce).

10. No consideration was given to any alternative plans, either during the Council's consideration of the developer's masterplan or at the detailed planning application stage, despite requests from local stakeholders to allow consultation on alternative proposals.

11. No consideration was given to emerging local or national policy regarding growing community assets, the shortage of affordable workshops space and start up business premises in the city, heritage led development policies, community led development planning and policy, or to alternative funding streams available for public realm improvements and traffic management.

12. Many of the benefits attributed to the proposed development could be achieved through retention and development of public assets, and would be required of any development in the area which adheres to existing and emerging statutory plans and policies.

13. The provision of affordable housing does not address the needs of the area (particular lack of larger, 3 and 4 bed family housing) and what has been proposed has been offset to publicly owned land on Calton road rather than being met on site by the developer.

14. There are no safeguards in place (or conditions imposed to ensure the controlled phasing of development) to ensure the masterplan area is developed in such a way to ensure the suggested benefits will be fully realised (or even delivered) should a recession slow down development.

15. The developer has demonstrated no real commitment to the consultation process by repeatedly stating that the scheme is an all or nothing development and a phased approach to this enormous site is not an option. In addition, the setting up a 'consultation group' (administered by the developer and had membership limited to those stakeholders invited 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.

16. The size location and facilities required (including direct access to a public square and the close proximity to exclusive luxury residential properties) by the hotel have been clearly stated as being key to securing a specific client for a hotel, however all applications require assessment against approved and adopted policy. No planning justification has been provided to warrant setting aside National Policy and Guidance with regard to the demolition of structurally sound listed and unlisted buildings in an Outstanding Conservation Area.

17. Senior members of CEC's Planning Committee and Planning Department have mishandled various elements in the processing of both the masterplan and the applications, ignored expert advice and opinion, behaved inappropriately and at times with prejudice towards members of the community and local community organisations.

18. The development does not accord with the Development Plan and was never advertised as a potential departure.

19. The decision is potentially prejudicial to the emerging Local Plan - it was identified in the finalised draft of the City Local Plan, due to be considered later this summer, following a request for Caltongate to be included in the emerging local plan by the developer. Its inclusion has sparked a significant number of objections to the inclusion of this oversized planning application as a Local Plan policy/proposal and objectors have also raised concerns that the finalised local plan has insufficient protection for listed buildings and the World Heritage Site.

20. The size and complexity of the technical information requires detailed analysis which is not available within the existing resources of CEC City Development Department. An Inquiry would allow evidence to also be presented from impartial and independent expert witnesses.

21. The plans conflict with National Policies NPPG18, NPPG5, SPP2, SPP1 and SPP3 and also memorandum of Guidance for Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

22. The processing of the supplementary guidance (masterplan) and the planning applications is not in accordance with advice contained in PAN41, PAN81, PAN 82, PAN 71, or PAN 74

I look forward to your acknowledgement of our letter and your subsequent call-in of these detrimental proposals for our capital.

Yours sincerely
Sally Richardson
Canongate Community Forum