Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Caltongate Crash

Collapse of inappropriate development
offers capital a chance to think again

In today`s Scotsman 26 March 2009
Every cloud has a silver lining and the demise of Mountgrange and abandonment of the "Caltongate" development (your report, 24 March) is the most positive outcome so far of the current economic crisis.

Those who opposed this project deserve the thanks of everyone who cares for Edinburgh. Had they not objected so vigorously this project would have advanced further, with listed buildings destroyed and a yawning gap site on the Canongate.

Your editorial (24 March) is wrong to suggest local residents made "impossible" demands. Their principal demand was that the city council respect its own and national policies on conservation and the preservation of listed buildings and the world heritage site.

In a throwback to the discredited policies of the 1960s, council and developer colluded to destroy part of a local community. It is a shameful event in Edinburgh's planning history that, with some honourable exceptions, councillors, MSPs, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government displayed supine acquiescence and impotence in their dealings with this piece of developmental hubris.

Two things should happen now. The council must immediately re-let all the vacant flats which it still owns in the Canongate. It is completely unacceptable that desirable social housing is being deliberately kept vacant to suit a developer. Tenants should also be found for those commercial properties still owned by the council. (Caltongate developer Manish Chande pays the council rent to keep flats empty, read more)

The council must also declare its intention to produce a revised masterplan for this part of the Old town, using its own resources or employing a respected consultant. In "Caltongate" it has allowed itself to be led ignominiously by the developers. The pernicious practice of allowing developers to produce their own masterplan must not be repeated.

On the other side of the Canongate 20 years ago the city council and its partners produced a masterplan for the Holyrood Road site. That area, a literal stone's throw away, was developed as flats, hotels, offices and cultural attractions such as Dynamic Earth and the Scottish Poetry Library. Views may differ about individual buildings, but few will deny that a genuine mixed development took place on that site which respected the traditional pattern of wynds and closes and at the same time gave expression to innovative architecture.

That is the way forward for the New Street site. The council must take charge, pay heed to its own policies and listen to the local community. ROBERT CAIRNS Ratcliffe Terrace Edinburgh

Here is what they are saying -

The Canongate Project

Canongate Project

Here is the report on the project in a pdf file. It was published in February 2009

A special "NO FOOLS ADMITTED" SOOT meeting is on the 1st April 2009 at 7pm in Old Saint Pauls Church Hall, Jeffrey St. Finding Old Saint Pauls

Come along and get involved, you do not have to live in the Old Town but you do have to care for it

Another letter that also appears in todays Scotsman newspaper-

What a driech front page photograph (24 March) – Edinburgh's centre blitzed by the battle of expansion versus conservation. Or could it look like the blank sheet of opportunity – a space which could be developed to learn new ways of creating more equal prosperity and buildings which enhance life and the landscape without overheating the economy and planet?

Suggestions of temporary landscaping could be the preliminary to more permanently pleasing solutions, if carried out as a well-run co-operative project involving paid workers and volunteers – individual citizens and already formed groups. This would create jobs and increase local spending in the short term, with occupation and livelihood motivating alongside learning. Social enterprise is the current label for the business model. JANE GRIFFITHS Middleby Street Edinburgh