Sunday, 28 September 2008
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
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
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 ...so much for Caltongate being a sustainable development eh?
Now when did coal become clean and cool again?
"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
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
This full page article
But he had no fears about the Unesco inspectors' visit in November.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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?