Sunday, 28 September 2008

"Well he would say that, wouldn't he"

Mandy Rice Davies as she leaves the court, famously saying "well he would say that wouldn't he" in retort that Lord Astor denies what she is saying!

There are rumours going about that Mountgrange are to pull out of the Canongate which they refer to as Caltongate - a little birdie told us that they don't have the money or investment.

However, at the Republic we have concerns that in this economic environment that Mountgrange will demolish further parts of East Market Street and New Street, to land bank it and hoping for the economy to get on its feet. A bigger and wider empty brown site really is not needed or wanted particularly in the World Heritage Site - it would be a disaster and cannot be allowed.

Have Mountgrange got the finance for their project? Further demolitions should not be carried out without knowing if the finances are secure? Sofitel may have a written agreement with the council and Mountgrange however they will not want to be surrounded by empty new builds that cannot be used. Sofitel is the hotel and conference centre however they are not funding or part of the "luxury apartments" or "luxury retail and offices".

The finance world is in free fall just now. Bradford & Bingley looks like it will have to be nationalised, HBOS has been bought out, finance companies and banks throughout the world are collapsing. I don't want to point out the obvious but who is going to finance Caltongate?

Mountgrange have told us it is a £330 million project. Where is the £330 million coming from? Developers borrow money to build buildings then sell them on. Where will they get £330 million from? And who are they planning (apart from Sofitel) to sell the rest of the development on to?

The council has sold the land off market for a cool £5 million however they do not get any profit share until the whole thing is sold. Some economists are saying that property is over valued by 40% - the council may see very little return for its investment - if indeed it goes ahead. The council is predicting brutal times ahead and it looks like Caltongate is their great hope to indicate that the capital city hasn't come to a halt - see here

However Mark Cummings Invictor PR spokesperson has vigourously denied rumours that Caltongate are pulling out, see here . However we have heard such denials before and in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies in th Profumo affair in the 1960s see here "well he would say that, wouldn't he?"

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Mountgrange to Pull Out?

Breaking News
3pm Weds 24th Sept 08
It has just been bought to the republic`s attention that Caltongate Developer Mountgrange are rumoured to be pulling out of Caltongate.
Instead it is being suggested that they are to demolish the listed buildings and homes, and sell on the cleared site with the planning consents......

Edinburgh to be renamed Murrayburgh?

Above is one of the many tour souvenirs available to buy

Talks are said to be taking place in the council to decide on a new name for the capital.

It is to be in honour of Allan Murray the prolific architect reshaping the city for the 21st Century.

Along with rebranding the city, officials believe it should be renamed as many prominent council officials along with the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Scotland, feel that the name Edinburgh conjours up images of old buildings, history and that sort of thing...they say its putting off the business visitor, hen and stags and the increasing numbers of people coming to look at new builds, whether empty office blocks, five star hotels and ten a penny luxury 2 bed apartments.

Allan Murray tours are proving to be popular as demand for more traditional historical and spooky type tours is dropping, as even the ghosts themselves have left the Old Town to make way for new Allan Murray buildings.

The tour starts with a brunch at The Tun building on Holyrood Road, where a short indoctrination talk is given on the economic benefits of all new development.

After brunch and talk you are driven in a Murray themed bus along the ever increasing tour route around the city. Craigmillar not on the tour at the present moment. (It is rumoured that future tours may take in Murray sites in The Merchant city in Glasgow and Peterhead etc)

Here is the route - (so far...)

The Tun, Holyrood Road
Cowgate Nursery, Old Town
Cowgate Fire Site (SOCO), Old Town
George IV Bridge Site.... Old Town
Argyle House , West Port, Old Town

Edinburgh Park (various Buildings)
Croyston House, Ravelston Terrace
Freer Street, New Town
Coal Hill, Leith

Then its onto "The Murray Hat Trick"
The Omni Centre, St James Centre Site and The Cube

Then its up to Calton Hill to look down onto the proposed Caltongate site where you are treated to a wee dram of Murrays own specially blended whisky "The Murrayburgh Blend" Each bottle featuring one of his many buildings.

We are looking forward to a tour review very soon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Caltongate Greenwash

Reasons for Public Inquiry Letter from Jim Johnson. Below is one of the reasons -

"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."

Canadian architect Martin Liefhebber on Youtube talks about how we now think twice even about throwing a coffee cup away, yet buildings like these here in Edinburgh are to be tossed in landfill and replaced by tons of carbon dioxide producing concrete and glass much for Caltongate being a sustainable development eh?

And it looks like Mountgrange wants to help spread SOOT all over the Auld Reekie once again, by having real fires in the exclusive rooms, so much for their green washing of it all with their underground heating source system paid by the British Taxpayer awarded by Alastair Darling.....(the social housing will not be served by it of course, now don`t be silly)

Now when did coal become clean and cool again?

They think that we don`t know that it is environmentally damaging to knock down sound stone buildings (emodied energy) and replace them with lumps of concrete and glass.....but hey, if they mention the words sustainability, underground source heating, Department of Trade and Industry giving grants, then tee hee we will be fooled.

"Chande told Property Week: ‘The upper floors will have the “wow factor”, with stunning views over the Old Town and Calton Hill from the presidential suite. There are real chimneys, so guests can enjoy proper fires in their rooms. " Article

Monday, 15 September 2008

Waterfront value plummets

Larry the Lamb lived in Toy Town but you would think our esteemed city fathers and mothers were aspiring to knock the unique stuffing out of Edinburgh to turn it into their sanitised version of Toy Town - a town where everything looks the same, with no character and looks like a new town of the 50s and 60s - housing in East Kilbride and Cumbernauld Shopping Centre.

The Evening News reports that the Waterfront in Leith, whose masterplan was approved in 2001 has gone from having a land value of £33 million to £14 million - quite a depreciation. We were told it was the great hope for Granton -and Leith, the reason we needed a tram in Edinburgh. The Waterfront development was the triumph of city planning - but their greed caught them out - too many one and two bedroom houses glutted the market and there is a great demand for family housing - they have have had to adapt to the market. Read about it here

For further information on JUMP - campaign about the Leith Development follow the link here

With Lehmann Brothers collapsing in the States - will there be any banks that will be able to lend money to these developments, never mind Caltongate. In a recession do we really need 5 star hotels, conference centres and more new build "luxury apartments" - Edinburgh knows what it needs - affordable family housing with an infrastructure to support it. The Canongate could be developed keeping it's World Heritage Status and injecting people and families into the residential part of the city centre. If the profits go from the Caltongate development - what arethe council's plans? To rent out the council housing that has laid empty being left to rack and ruin, open up the Canongate Venture, to develop the land where the bus station was to be affordable housing?

The credit crunch is turning into a recession - the worse seen in more than a generation. Some say that Caltongate is not going ahead as Mountgrange don't have the money - so if that is the case we want to know what the council plans for a fall back position?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Caltongate - Unesco`s Biggest Worry in UK

Remember this, Caltongate Developer Mountgrange`s Manish Chande wheeling his "Braveheart" cow , through Princes Street Gardens, in the early days of his bid to ruin Edinburgh, and can you believe he is on the board of English Heritage..oh, and he`s the head of Edinburgh`s Chamber of Commerce Property Group, friends with Malcolm Cooper of Historic Scotland and so on...see earlier posts
The cow sat opposite the Council`s City Chambers on The Royal Mile as part of the Cow Parade in 2006

This full page article
"UN threatens to act against Britain for failure to protect heritage sites"

by Severin Carrell appeared in the Guardian yesterday Monday September 08 2008 on p3 of the Top stories section.

Listen to short audio with Severin Carrell: 'UK is too keen on prestige development'
Below follows Edinburgh comments from the Full Article
The UN is threatening to put the Tower of London on its list of world heritage sites in danger after its experts accused the UK of damaging globally significant sites such as Stonehenge, the old town of Edinburgh and the Georgian centre of Bath, the Guardian has learned.

Unesco, the UN's cultural agency, has told ministers in London and Edinburgh that it wants urgent action to protect seven world heritage sites which it claims are in danger from building developments, and said in some cases the UK is ignoring its legal obligations to protect them.

Their complaints range from decisions to approve new tower blocks in central London, such as the 66-storey "shard of glass" at London Bridge, to the failure to relocate the A344 beside Stonehenge despite promising action for 22 years, to a proposed wind farm which threatens neolithic sites on Orkney.

"In its strongest criticism, Unesco's world heritage committee has said it "deeply regrets" the decision by Edinburgh city council to press ahead with a hotel, housing and offices development called Caltongate next to the Royal Mile, despite expert evidence it will ruin the medieval old town's unique form.

In the committee's final report after its annual meeting in July in Quebec, which has just been released, it also accuses the UK of breaching world heritage site guidelines by failing to warn it in advance about the Caltongate scheme. Last month, Koichiro Matsuura, Unesco's director general, told the Scotsman there was growing concern about Edinburgh. "It is crucial that its outstanding features are preserved and protected," he said.

Leading architects and conservationists, including Sir Terry Farrell and Marcus Binney, chairman of Save Britain's Heritage, have said they share Unesco's anxieties. Farrell, appointed Edinburgh's "design champion", told the Guardian the city urgently needed a proper urban design masterplan. "I'm very supportive of Unesco's position," he said.

Binney said: "Heritage has taken a back seat to Cool Britannia and encouraging everything modern, and we're now uncomfortably in the limelight for failing to have proper policies to protect our world heritage sites, and timely criticisms are now being made."

John Graham, chief executive of Historic Scotland, said he shared Unesco's anxieties about plans for high rises in Edinburgh's Leith docks and a tower to replace the St James' centre, a 70s concrete shopping centre in the New Town due for demolition.

But he had no fears about the Unesco inspectors' visit in November.
"The judgments we've reached are sound and defensible; that is the stance we will be taking when the mission arrives," he said.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

True Identity of Caltongate Architect Revealed

David Brent the "Mastermind behind Caltongate"
Edinburgh – from world heritage site to Basildon of the north?

NORMAN Foster's Sage music centre at Gateshead isn't one of the most immediately appealing of buildings: a gigantic silver seaslug crawling along the south bank of the Tyne.

Yet, once you are inside, it works brilliantly, not just as a concert multi-hall, but as a belvedere, presenting Newcastle as a sharp panorama – the Norman castle, the great railway station, the five Tyne bridges, the classical blocks of Dobson and Grainger, even the 1960s offices run up by Dan Smith. The northern-facing site pays off in the evening, as the sun sets over this lot.

Which should send visiting Scots back to think again. The panorama from Edinburgh's Princes Street is still stunning, even if largely Victorian, dropping from the Castle Infirmary, past Patrick Geddes's Ramsay Garden, Pugin's Tolbooth, St John's Church, Playfair's Assembly Hall and the Bank of Scotland to the old City Chambers and the crown spire of St Giles'. The trouble comes when you turn to Princes Street itself, which is an architectural disaster worthy of the late great Rayner Banham's puking vole award.

The daft Scott Monument, faux-Tudor Jenners and Sir J J Burnet's grand Edwardian Forsyth's apart, the street is a horror-show of bad planning and worse architecture. The Abercrombie Plan of 1948 envisaged a double-deck shopping street. Although the city fathers dropped nearly every other aspect of it, bits of this scheme were realised in the 1960s at the cost of William Burn's New Club and Charles Barry's magnificent Standard Life offices. The big drapers and grand food shops left, along with Crawford's Tea Rooms, and the southern high street slithered in … and in due course, as elsewhere, expired. This is the territory of Frasers and Marks & Sparks, mobile phone shops, standard-issue Waterstone's and naughty knickers stores, and pretty demeaning.

David Brent`s Caltongate looking towards Waverley Bridge

No wonder Unesco isn't best pleased. The cultural organisation has threatened that if changes aren't made to two schemes – Caltongate and Haymarket – bang may go Edinburgh's world cultural heritage ranking.

Only a collective failure of taste can explain the total nullity of the Caltongate scheme, a Basildon clone promoted by the English developer Mountgrange: something even the council can defend only on the grounds that "it will attract investment". Designed by and for David Brent would sum it up.

It's as if Scotland's architectural ambition, having made its expensive statements in the National Museum and Holyrood Parliament – extraordinary and oddly timeless buildings – has held its tongue, and instead the spirit of boil-in-a-bag Georgian has seeped in from an exurbian sprawl characterised by the journalist Iain MacWhirter as having "the texture of dead skin".

What to do? To the west of Haymarket there's a real need for a first-rate transport interchange, as Waverley Station isn't up to the expected growth in rail traffic without expensive tunnels, and a western site could make use of the under-used South Suburban line. As for Caltongate, think about the young architects – many of them Scots – who took Enrico Miralles's sketches and made such a remarkable building out of them.

And think, too, that the real glories of Scotland aren't medieval or Georgian but Victorian, in all its rumbustious vitality: town halls, schools, railway stations, shooting lodges, workers' dwellings. Every glen or town will produce one extraordinary building, and the cities show scores, ranging in Edinburgh from Playfair's gigantic Donaldson's School for the Deaf only a few hundred yards from Haymarket, to Robert Lorimer's tiny Italianate St Peter's Church in Morningside, built for Wilde's Dorian Gray.

David Brent`s Building for Caltongate on East Market Street

Why not get the youngsters to reimagine the Caltongate site and on it re-erect some of these often-endangered buildings as its foci, rather as the Holyrood parliament incorporates the venerable Queensberry House – creating a new route from Waverley Station into the Old Town, and an imaginative, working museum of Scots architecture?

Monday, 1 September 2008

Does Edinburgh Deserve Caltongate?

Edinburgh is Being Vandalised yesterdays posting found us this great image, source unknown....and got us here in the Republic thinking, is Caltongate merely a reflection of the self obsessed, greedy times we have been living in for the past decade or so? Maybe now that those times are coming to an will the threat of Caltongate ...
This article Architect Hits Back in Edinburgh UNESCO Row in Building Design "The Architect`s Website" on the 29th Aug 08 the following comments on it are worth more of a look than the article ....