Andrew Holmes, Director of City Development retires after a long career in the City of Edinburgh Council and it's now time to say "cheerio". Mr Holmes was the council official behind Caltongate and many other disastrous schemes in Edinburgh. This is what he said about Caltongate....part of his legacy to EdinburghOf course there's controversy. Anything that involves change has an element of controversy about it. Look at Caltongate, that's accounted for a huge part of our work for a considerable time. There were a lot of issues raised by local objectors, but most of these were – and would always have been – addressed by the planning system. In retrospect, Caltongate took longer than we would have liked but the reasons for that are apparent, including the fact that it was dealt with by a fairly new planning committee. There's always a tension in the planning system. On the one hand the system is in favour of development but on the other there's the recognition of the need to consult and the right to allow people to voice objections. In
Burying our heads in the sand? Perhaps he was building empires on sand!
It's a pity he wasn't Holmes by name homes by nature, its a pity Mr Holmes thinks knocking down of homes merits development and missed the opportunity to build decent family sized social and affordable homes on the development owned by them instead of luxury apartments, townhouse, offices, hotel and conference centre. Sadly the Independent Republic of the Canongate won't miss Andrew Holmes at all.
Article in Evening News here By GINA DAVIDSON
During his tenure he oversaw many bold schemes, but now the city's development director is moving on.
IN sober suit, shirt and tie, his face in repose somewhat reminiscent of a lugubrious bloodhound, Andrew Holmes appears as though 40 years of public service have left him thoroughly depressed.
But then he breaks into the kind of grin which can light up a room . . . as he talks of moving out of
There will no doubt be others around town ready to pop some corks when Holmes finally relinquishes control of the council's city development operation, a few raised eyebrows at the fact that the man who has helped engineer so many controversial changes in
Trams, road bumps, controlled parking zones, retractable bollards, wheelie bins in the New Town, Caltongate, the Scottish Parliament, the Waterfront development, even the re-cobbling of the Royal Mile... there can hardly have been a controversial move made in the city in the last ten years which has not passed over Holmes' desk.
If he was an elected politician his name would be as mud-splattered as that of David "congestion charging" Begg or Andrew "city centre traffic cock-up" Burns.
Instead, as a council official, he has been able to remain out of the public eye, although there are those who suggest that the real power within
He laughs off such a suggestion. His job, he says, has always been apolitical. He – and his department – are there to make sure developers and householders stick squarely to the letter of planning law, no matter if an application is for hundreds of new homes or a single conservatory. And he says he gives nothing but the hard facts when asked for information from politicians be it on planning, transportation or council property issues. If they don't like the facts, that's not his fault.
Yet it is said that Holmes is a man who likes to get his way, and as someone who has worked his way up the ladder to director after much lowlier beginnings – he started out as an engineer with the old Edinburgh Corporation, before joining the Highways department in Lothian Regional Council – there can be no doubt he possesses as much drive and determination as any politician.
Perhaps as a result, there have, allegedly, been some furious fights between official and political masters over certain policies in the past. The city centre traffic management scheme is one which apparently got blood boiling.
This saw retractable bollards placed in
Even now he seems reluctant to give much ground. "That (CCTM) didn't just happen overnight you know," he says. "It was several years in the preparation and there were considerable consultative exercises done. It wasn't sprung on anyone... it's a cumbersome process, changing traffic regulations.
"In retrospect we've got to say some of it was a step too far – not that there's anyone demanding cars back on
It's the same with trams. Holmes was around when the idea of a different kind of transport system for
"Look at the huge number of people travelling to the airport, to the Waterfront to the city centre. How else are you going to move them around without making a change in public transport provision? Princes Street is coming to the end of its capacity for buses. We're now at the stage where we're digging up the streets and every city that's gone through this stage has had complaints.
He adds: "It has been controversial because it's a big change, but you always need people with big ideas running a city. There's not necessarily a conflict between that and being a pragmatist, but while there's always the aspiration in
Controversy seems to dog Holmes. But he says, that's because of the remit of his department rather than anything he does personally. "We're not the biggest council department but we deal with economic development, transport and planning and the council's property portfolio. If city development didn't exist, the Evening News would definitely be thinner."
"Of course there's controversy. Anything that involves change has an element of controversy about it. Look at Caltongate, that's accounted for a huge part of our work for a considerable time. There were a lot of issues raised by local objectors, but most of these were – and would always have been – addressed by the planning system.
"In retrospect, Caltongate took longer than we would have liked but the reasons for that are apparent, including the fact that it was dealt with by a fairly new planning committee."
He adds: "There's always a tension in the planning system. On the one hand the system is in favour of development but on the other there's the recognition of the need to consult and the right to allow people to voice objections. In
Tough words. But it's been almost ten years since he was handed the reins of the city development department, with an £81,000 salary, a budget of £110 million and 900 staff. It must be hard to leave after wielding such power. Holmes says he's neither desperate to leave nor, as some have suggested, has he been pushed out.
"There does come a time, in this job anyway, when a change is beneficial," he smiles. "Of course because the job is so interesting and stimulating, it is difficult to let go, which is why I told my staff six months before I handed in my notice – so that I wouldn't weaken.
"You can't do the job forever and said I would go once I hit 60 and that was last year, so... if people tell you I'm not happy about going it's because it's a tug not because someone's got my arm twisted up my back. If that was true I'd be holding out for a pay-off."
And what does the future hold for him? "I'm moving to Pitlochry. If you're going to make a change, make a big one. It's a place I have always liked and has a great social and cultural life around the theatre. And it's only an hour or so away from
Gogarburn: "We were working with RBS for a long time. We helped them look for different sites and once they decided on Gogarburn we helped them deal with the planning issues. People say we gave planning permission for building in the green belt, but there was a development there before (the hospital) and the site was suitable for a single user who would respect the site and RBS has done that. If you can say that you got the world's fourth largest bank to establish its HQ in a small city in northern
Waterfront: "I'm proud of the opportunity that exists there... it was just wasteland when it came to us and now it's the biggest regeneration project in the
Craigmillar: "The regeneration there is something I'm very proud of. Last month people were queuing up to buy houses in Craigmillar – you wouldn't have thought that a few years ago."
Planning system:"It always gets knocked. When I was appointed, we had the slowest system in
The future: "