Wednesday, 31 December 2008

SOOT`S New Year Message

Year of The Homecoming 2009 -or should that be Hotel?

Press Release sent earlier today -

Local residents will be on the street outside the Macrae tenements at 221-227 Canongate on The Royal Mile today from 2pm to protest against the council's short sightedness to leave 18 homes empty before they are demolished to make way for a 5 star hotel, at a time when there are nearly half a million bids for 2700 homes this year alone in the capital.

Members of the Canongate Community Forum have asked for an internal investigation into the City of Edinburgh Council
who have refused to answer Freedom of Information requests on how many council houses are empty in the Canongate and what is the loss of revenue.

Today the Canongate Community Forum received this email from a supporter in the West of Scotland

"As a Scot I'm dismayed and disgusted for the proposals in your area which will not only see the destruction of our world heritage status it will continue the fascism of the early eighties that plighted people across Scotland.

It will be a sad loss to the generations of Scots still to be born who would be able to walk these streets and absorb the surroundings enthusing not only learning but also creativity, pride and an understanding of their historic roots.

To remove such buildings and peoples is a socio-cultural crime of such significance that it should be alongside that of the Highland clearances and another indication that we are our own worst enemy as well as a ratification of a move closer to the sterile worlds written within the prophetic novels of Eric Blair and Aldous Huxley.

I wish you well in everything you do in your attempt to overt this national tragedy and hope that these proposals become only a sad reflection of past victories.

I can honestly say I enjoy visiting Edinburgh which evades me due to illness these days and I am deeply saddened by such a proposal which will destroy an area that made me feel so proud to be Scottish and that I hoped to visit again.

Catriona Grant, Chair of the Canongate Community Forum said

"The Homecoming should be about all the people living in Scotland coming home to a home!"

The Year of Homecoming 2009 must insist that homes are built in our city and that existing empty homes are opened up. It should not be used as a justification to build more hotels and more homes becoming holiday lets"

She added - "We will be out today letting the many Hogmanay Visitors see what else is going on in our city"

In September 2006 Scots writer Alasdair Gray said

"Mrs Thatcher called upon the Scots to start exploiting their natural resources, not meaning that they should learn to produce good food, clothes and housing for each other, but earn the money to buy these from tourist industries, thus becoming a nation of boarding houses, heritage trails, golf courses and summer schools, with business conference centres in some of the prettiest places, with nuclear submarine and airforce bases in others. New Labour continues this policy, while drug addiction and brutal crime grow worse in once hopeful housing schemes that are now our new slums. There may be small nations in the world with effective democratic constitutions. Scotland is not among them, perhaps not England either. "

Does the SNP now want to continue this policy, and use the descendents of the last clearances to justify this latest one??

UNESCO inspectors visited the capital in November and "criticised Edinburgh council's handling of the Caltongate development and said the demolition of two listed buildings could have been avoided"

Join us again on New Years Day from 2pm

Monday, 29 December 2008

Housing Scandal! 400,000 bids for 2700 homes

Council home in Dumbiedykes for rent - for more information see

The council cannot house the over crowded, homeless, those fleeing domestic abuse, those who just want their own home and those who may become potentially homeless of Edinburgh. There has not been a council house built in Edinburgh for nearly three decades, the right to buy has drained the council stock and housing assosiations and co-ops just don't have the capacity. The council's policy of building affordable social housing by getting homes from developers just does not work and is developer driven, it is a folly policy. Developers build housing units not homes i.e. one and two bedroom flats - there is a derth of three, four and even five bedroom homes fit for families. Many families get stuck in accomodation that is overcrowded because there are not bigger homes particualrly when their families expand.

The Edinburgh Evening News reports read here that there were nearly 1/2 million bids were made for 2700 homes in Edinburgh, yet 9 council homes lie empty on the Canongate waiting to be re-developed by Mountgrange, some of the houses have been empty for nearly 2 years. The Independent Republic raised this back on 14th December - read here This is an outrage! Even if they could not be used as permanent homes they could be used for temporary accomodation.

The council agreed at the Planning Committee in February 2008 to build social housing through Places for Places on Calton Road, yet there is no movement, not a brick has been laid. The land is not owned by Mountgrange but by the council, so where is the housing? What is the problem? The council should not be restrained by the economic problems of the developers. If the council had not sold the land where the gap site is there would be a great space to build community resources and council housing. Now we might see a gap sit for decades.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

More credit crunch conundrums

Allan Murray's empty "Cube" on Leith Street.

Britain's banks face up to £70bn of losses on commercial property loans, enough to force some of them into a further round of taxpayer bail-out.

Article in Daily Telegraph here

That is all the shops and luxury office blocks that are lying empty all over the place. Why would we need to add more to the glut? Perhaps Allan Murray won't get to build more luxury offices, shops and apartments in every gap site in Edinburgh. Do we really need Caltongate? Is there £300 million still there to invest, without the shops and offices will Sofitel mwant to go ahead? All these questions the Independent Republic wonders when they will get answered.

Will there be more Caltongate credit crunch conundrums in 2009?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas from all the citizens in the Independent Republic of the Canongate. Eat well, be merry and remember to recycle!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Merry Christmas From SOOT

Caption reads "Damn contemporary, bullshit architecture!"

Lets hope Santa is good to us all.......our letter reads something like this

"Please Santa can you bring the Old Town the best new development for the New Street site, one that respects and is in harmony with the surrounding historic environment ( not the new council headquarters), that does not demand unnessary demolitions of homes and buildings, loss of views and has lots of family sized housing, green space and generally good things for all and not just what a few greedy people want"

love SOOT xxxxx

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Old Town on Fire Again

This building on Victoria Street in the Old Town went on fire last night, lets hope the building can be saved and does not become a possible Allan Murray Gap site. The fire in the Cowgate in 2002 is the gapsite for Allan Murray`s controversial SoCo, which writer Alexander MacCall Smith spoke out against recently.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Caltongate Cash Cows

Caltongate developer Manish Chande wheels his "Brave Moo" through Princes Street gardens at the launch of the Cow Parade Edinburgh in 2006.
The following article appears in the Winter edition of Edinburgh`s Southsider, out today.
In the autumn issue of The Southsider we told you that Edinburgh was to receive a visit from a UNESCO mission in November. The city is the most likely World Heritage Site in the UK to be placed on their danger list. This is due to the level of concern raised about proposed developments - Caltongate, Haymarket, St James Centre and the Waterfront and their impact on the Outstanding Universal Values of the World Heritage Site.

Save Our Old Town and others throughout the city concerned with her future believe that the main things the inspectors took away, was an understanding of the problems raised by developers drawing up master plans and development briefs for sites, and the enormous pride and understanding of the city held by her residents.

The inspectors will report back informally to Historic Scotland in February, so that they can check facts and get any responses or changes underway, and then the report will be published in time for the UNESCO summit in Seville, next summer.

Caltongate developers Mountgrange`s Brave Moo cow was placed opposite the Council`s City Chambers on The High Street part of The Royal Mile.....

Caltongate developers Mountgrange, told newspapers recently, that they thought UNESCO an “irrelevance” and that they were not interested in its view on their development.
As we have found they have not been interested in the community’s views or anyone else’s for that matter either, so why listen to an international organisation?

Now with an economy very different to the one, when the plans were first unveiled in 2005, perhaps those other views on the city and how she develops will now become relevant as they should always have been.

The days of get rich quick property developers are now over, and as TV property programmes are having to adapt and rethink their ethos so must the City of Edinburgh Council.

Perhaps presenter George Clarke from the channel 4 Home Show should be telling them
“Its time to stop seeing Edinburgh as a cash cow and wake up to the fact that – first and foremost – your city is your home”

Mountgrange`s Caltongate cow placed in Hunter Square on The Royal Mile. Showing the lovely development. All Caltongate cows proudly displayed their sponsors name.

Lets look forward to 2009, not only as the Year of Home Coming Scotland, which will see descendents of Scots visit from all over the world, but also the Year of Being Home and where being proud and involved in your town or city is seen as a positive thing and not scornfully pushed aside.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

I tell you what we need!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall stares lovingly at his hen

After watching repeats of that curly hared man I always forget - Hugh Thingy Me Bob and saying "oh if Caltongate goes ahead I might as well go and grow jureseleum artichokes and look after chickens - I've had enoug of this city!"

I then thought about the ugly gap site on New Street and I think if it is not developed by the summer we need to put planning permission in to make it into gardens and allotments, I know its north facing but with the help of some polytunnels I think we could have a wee enterprise to rival River Cottage. Read more about allotments here

After all hundreds of years ago the north and south back of the Canongate were the market gardens of Edinburgh.An allotment -much more useful than a 5 star hotel, sustainable too.

Macrae tenements lying empty when there is homelessness in Edinburgh (to be demolished to make way for the 5 star hotel).

Lets do that - lets put something useful there so we don't have a big dirty hole and whilst we are at it we should demand the council opens up the council housing that is going to rack and ruin at the Macrae tenements, at approx £230 a month rent and £120 council tax a month, the council is missing out on £400 a month per flat - there's nine empty ones so that's £3,600 every month, that's just short of £40,000 a year - so much for homelessness and the credit crunch!

Check out the council's choice base letting system, here - if my maths is right there have been 8 council houses in the past year up for let from the council and 3704 people/families have bidded for them yet 9 lie empty on the Canongate alone - check the figures out for yourself - here.

Yet Caltongate scheme will demolish these 9 flats replace them with 6 council flats and 6 more "affordable housing units" at Cranston Street (where the suspected common good land is, which legally belongs to the people and not the council).

So Caltongate is bringing an addition 3 "affordable "housing units", however to get these 3 extra "housing units" we have to have 9 empty houses for months and months - soon getting into years. Is it me or is this just plan daft and uneconomical?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Vote for Caltongate!

Our friends in the wonderful world of architecture are giving out awards, nothing new there then, we hear you say, but alas its not the back slapping ones....

Get voting.....if you need motivating then look who is number 2 in the most influential people in the world of building design ! God help us! The POWER 100 List

The Carbuncle Awards 2009

See how to Vote Here


The Plook On The Plinth Award

This award is for the most dismal town in Scotland. This year it is Coatbridge Town Centre - do you know if there is anywhere worse? Past winners include Cumbernauld and Airdrie. If you wish to nominate towns for the most dismal place award this is the criteria you should bear in mind. What sets the Carbuncles apart is that it is not about punishing towns that are ugly through no fault of their own. For any nomination there should be evidence of:
• Unexploited potential• A lack of vision and ambition by powers that be• Examples of how things are being mis-managed

The Pock Mark Award

This delightfully entitled award is for the worst planning decision. This year is Springfield Quay in Glasgow - but there are others. Have your say now by niminating below.
The criteria you should bear in mind when considering nominations include:
• The project must not yet be built – hopefully this award might at least slow the process down!• It must have a negative impact on the environment• It must fail to fill people with joy and optimism

The Zit Building Award

This award is for the worst building. Previous winners include the Glasgow Maternity Hospital at the Royal Infirmary. The criteria again requires you to use a bit of imagination.
• The building must be less than three years old• It must be perceived as a missed opportunity• You must hate the thought of having to pass or see it every day

Monday, 8 December 2008

McCall Smith going LoCo over SoCo

"Plans for a £40 million hotel in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town have been attacked for destroying the “rhythm and elegance” of the city centre by the novelist Alexander McCall Smith and Sir Timothy Clifford, the former director general of the National Galleries of Scotland. "

So another Old Town site that Allan Murray has on his to do list is causing a stir in the toon. see Times today

So perhaps Alexander MacCall Smith will get in touch with the ladies of the Save Our Old Town No.1 Detective Agency and together ..... Edinburgh could move closer to achieving the best new additions to her heritage and the best for the people who live in the city, who we believe are called residents, the communtiy, stakeholders, voters, but are probably called other names by the powers that be.

"In a letter to The Times, Mr McCall Smith and Sir Timothy join six other eminent figures in deriding the plans for SoCo, a hotel which has been designed to rise from the Cowgate on to South Bridge in Edinburgh, on a site destroyed by fire in 2002. "

"The authors of the letter - including Alexander Stoddart, the sculptor, Douglas Rae, the film producer, and Professor Richard Demarco - describe the aftermath of the fire as the perfect opportunity to restore the symmetry of South Bridge, which was planned by Scotland's pre-eminent architect, Robert Adam, but completed by Robert Kay, in 1786. "

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Newsflash - Government to Save Canongate Buildings?

A bit of a catch up here in the many things to do...what with baking, chutney making, funfairs, santa and reindeers, woolies closing tears..its all go

So we could hardly believe our eyes when we read Linda Fabiani MSP, minister for Europe, external affairs and culture saying this in yesterday`s Scotsman in an opinion piece entitled Saving Our Heritage gosh maybe they have been listening to us mere mortals. see Caltongate Greenwash

We are also coming to realise just how important our traditional buildings are in reducing Scotland's carbon footprint. Keeping older buildings in use is very resource efficient.

The energy used by the people living or working in a building throughout its lifetime is a fraction of the energy used in its construction.

Many leading Scottish architects have drawn inspiration from past heritage. Castlemilk Stables Restoration in Glasgow, which was a joint winner of this year's RIAS Doolan Award, is, for instance, an excellent example of a contemporary design approach to adapting historic buildings for present-day community use.

In the Guardian earlier this week One of Prince Charles's allies in his battle against modern architecture has attacked the "disappointing to dismal" design of British postwar towns.

Sparking anger among architects, Andres Duany flew in from America and yesterday unveiled a 64-point litany of mistakes made by British architects and planners over the last 50 years.

He accused architects of being "infantile" in pursuing ego-driven visions and said they were "heedless of technical and social dysfunction and widespread lack of popularity" caused by their designs.

He called on architects and planners to step aside and allow a new generation of amateurs to lead development in the 21st century.

"Only architecture, confusing itself with fashion as a platform for cultural expression, continues to be avant garde, heedless of its cost overruns, social and technical dysfunction and widespread lack of popularity."

Some of Duany`s What not to do list

• Avoid fashionable architecture - buildings that are obsessively of our time will be out of date too soon

• Civic buildings should be grand and private buildings should recede into the background

Avoid many buildings by one designer - diversity is the hallmark of a great place

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Silent Walk for Justice today on Royal Mile

Today our thoughts are with the family and friends of the late Annie Jansson who along with many others are taking part in The Silent Walk for Justice today on The Royal Mile from 3pm, from Castle to Parliament.

We met Maria and Guje in May this year when one of our fellow Common Good campaigners introduced them to us during our Canongate Project. It was important for them to meet people who live and or work in The Old Town, where Annie spent the last few months of her life.

Maria and Guje are campaining to find out the truth about what happened to Gujes daughter Annie who was found dead on the shore in Prestwick 4 dec 2005.

Annie worked at the Scottish Whisky Experience (at the Castle) during the summer 2005. She loved the Old Town of Edinburgh .

Her mother Maria and friend Guje know that Annie visited shops and restaurants etc along the Royal Mile and are convinced that there are people out there that Annie spoke with and we hope to find them since they can have very important information regarding Annies last days in life.

On Friday the 2nd Dec 2005 Annie visited some friends at the Whisky Experience, no one knows where Annie went after she left her friends at the Experience. Hopefully some one will remember something.

Monday, 1 December 2008

SOOT Gathering Tues 2nd Dec 7pm

Come along to Old Saint Pauls Church Hall, Jeffrey Street mapanddirections on
Tuesday 2nd December. Next to Waverley Station, close to Princes St and St Andrews bus station.
All welcome, come at whatever time you can and stay for however long suits you.
Doors open 7pm, start meeting 7.30pm

We will be discussing the recent UNESCO visit, The Canongate Project, volunteers wanted to help finish off and collate work of the Project and new threats around the city, including SoCo, The Tron, West Port etc

Then rest of evening until late`ish will be a social get together.

A chance for you to share your news over a glass of wine and a mince pie.

Please BYOB. Glasses and some snacks provided, but do bring some more to share if you can.