Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Evening News mourns Caltongate

Caltongate: 'Mountgrange at least had an innovative plan'
This is the Evening News Comment from yesterday to accompany the devastating news that Caltongate is on the brink of collapse, see yesterdays posting.
AFTER years of consultation and compromise it is unfortunate that the Caltongate project is likely to at the very least be further delayed due to the dire circumstances in which the development company finds itself.

Love the idea or hate it, Mountgrange had at least come up with an innovative scheme to breathe new life into a derelict corner of the inner city.Such problems have already resulted in delays to other major regeneration projects at Springside on the former Fountain Brewery Site and at Shawfair, where plans to create a "new town" on the outskirts of the city have also been shelved.Elsewhere, progress at Granton and on the Waterfront is slow and the plan to develop a medical park at Little France shows little sign of progression. The commercial property market is, to say the least, difficult and it will take some time to recover.
During the lengthy period it has taken Mountgrange to obtain planning permission for its housing, leisure and business scheme its fortunes have slumped dramatically. The company has posted losses in excess of £24 million and has seen the value of the Caltongate site plummet by almost £18 million. Its auditors gloomily forecast that they are uncertain as to whether it can keep trading. But before those who fought against the scheme celebrate, they must remember that the site will eventually be developed and the principles which underpinned it will not go away.
It is understandable that in the present economic climate that banks are wary about backing companies such as Mountgrange who are involved in speculative construction projects. There is plenty unfilled office space in Edinburgh, with more becoming available soon, and not too many firms are queuing up to expand or move into new premises. Housebuilders are finding it difficult to unload even what affordable housing is being completed.
Against this background it is somewhat reassuring that the city council today has earmarked an additional £1.4m in next year's budget to help stimulate economic growth. It hopes for an outlay of almost £4m that it will attract over a hundred times that in new investment and it promises to invest more the following year should it be required.Aiming to attract such level of investment in these times may seem an ambitious target but the city must continue to aim high. Recessions don't last for ever and Edinburgh must ensure that when it is over it is in the best position to take advantage of any opportunities that might become available.

From an article at the end of last year Councils look to get their message through letterboxes more often in The Sunday Herald, the Evening News has let the City Of Edinburgh Council and Mountgrange know exactly how much they support them!
from the article -

John McLellan, editor of the Evening News, scorns the suggestion that this outlay should be increased to compensate for his paper's shortcomings.

"I am really sorry that I have caused those poor sensitive dears so much heartache. I take it as a compliment. If you actually analysed the main policies on which the council has received criticism, you would find that we supported them.

We were behind the trams, the rationalisation of schools, the Caltongate development and the decision to demolish Meadowbank stadium. "On the point of the leadership of the council, we are reflecting exactly what every civic leader says about them."