Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Bank won`t sell New Street Site ?

THE massive Caltongate site is set to mothballed for a year or more after the Bank of Scotland ordered administrators not to sell the site on the cheap.
The Edinburgh-based bank is owed £73.8 million by Mountgrange Capital and is concerned that, in the current market, the site would not sell for enough to get it the money back.

Remember when the republic broke the news of Mountgrange having no cash back in September last year, of course no one believed them as they were not a PR spin doctor like Mark Cumming of Never Beaten PR or Donald whaur`s yer troosers? Anderson of the infamous pr outfit PPS Group

Monday, 27 April 2009

Help keep 11 properties for the nation.

One of the at risk properties - Haddo House, originally designed by William Adam in 1732

Our blog here in the republic is proving a popular friend for those in need. Today`s cry for help is from concerned members of the National Trust for Scotland.
In Trust for Scotland has been formed to organise National Trust for Scotland members’ opposition to the lack of consultation about proposed closures of eleven properties held “in trust for the nation”.

The Board and Council of the NTS have shown blatant disrespect to donors, volunteer supporters and employees by failing to consult them about solutions to the deep and sudden financial crisis

To avoid a ‘fait accompli’ at September’s AGM an Extraordinary General Meeting should be called before the Board and Council causes any more harm to the NTS.

They need 2,000 signatures to call an EGM

Their website is and they are on facebook

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Holiday Home Hell

One of the images from the Edinburgh International Festival brochure this year...showing drunks urinating on Greyfriars Bobby

Help improve the lives of those living in the city centre, by calling on the Scottish Government to make landlords of "Holiday Lets" comply with legislation, none at present. Its a start in the right direction for now.

From an article last week Evening News

"The Scottish Government has changed its mind on a crackdown on "party flats" after pleas from residents plagued by revellers who come to the Capital for stag and hen weekends.Neighbours demanded action, claiming their lives have been made a misery by groups of up to 25 people staying in one flat and causing noise, disturbance and antisocial behaviour."

from another piece from 3o March 09 "another neighbour in Grove Street, who asked not to be named, said one of the flats in the street was let out to stag and hen parties for about £600 a night. He said: "For the last three years, every Friday and Saturday it is stuffed with 14 or 16 people who urinate in the stairwell and cause a disturbance. They have been sold the deal as a stag or hen party and they are out to have fun."

"And because it's not an official HMO or a B&B, it falls between two stools and the landlord is not subject to any legislation. He is essentially above the law.

Many of our homes in the republic have been turned into holiday flats...making our lives as families with small children and our elderly neighbours lives (some housebound) hell, we are expected to be unpaid hostel staff.........while the owners sit back and rake in the cash on flats that were once council owned and rented out at £300 a month are now more than that a night!

The Grassmarket is looking to change it`s image

and its happening in Glasgow too

and Cardiff has had enough as well

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Demolition Derby in The Pans

A photo of the Fowler`s building mid demolition yesterday.....

We have received this sad news from our friends in the Pans......there was no prior warning, this has made the republic very anxious for the buildings at risk here in the Old Town

See here for more on the Prestonpan`s Story

Lidls to build cheap homes at the expense of Prestonpan`s heritage....

Friday, 10 April 2009

Council`s Old Town Plan Revealed

At a secret committee meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council, this news has been leaked to the Republic....

As we suspected the council`s overall city centre development strategy is to rid the Old Town of permanent residents.

At the meeting it was discussed that the measures already in place are working a treat.

"The HMO`s are going faster than hot cakes", said one councillor. They added "That puts paid to pesky permanent residents breeding any more Edinburgh Old Town residents and there are never voices of dissent from a flat full of spanish student/casual workers on council policy." "Family housing my a**e , who do they think cities are for??" sneered another councillor.

"Us business people thats who" piped up another

"Then when we rename it "Murrayburgh" no one will blink an eyelid" laughed one who is a friend of local architects it is rumoured.

"That policy of destroying all trees, pockets of greenspace is astoundingly quick in driving out not only the wildlife but the most hardy of long term residents" laughed another councillor closely connected to entertainment companies across the city.

They added "The sanitisation of the Grassmarket has worked a treat, so public space will be as out of fashion as a residents association in the not too distant future" sniggered another into their latte.

"The lax response to Hen and Stag parties ruining residents lives is going well", reported another councillor, known for their pro economic development line on the planning committee. "Passing every hotel application is progressing well too", laughed another councillor who has close hotel industry links. "Gosh it won`t be long" sneered a councillor known for their disdain of locals, "before residents are a thing of the past", then we can pay students to dress up as residents through the ages" suggested another who has close links with the tourist industry "

"Spending money on statues are getting their goats at the moment but with one going up soon of the ordinary woman in response to the many complaints about only having the common man statue outside the councils HQ will surely will shut them up" said the committee`s chair.
to be continued.......

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Capital News

Someone bought the following to the republic`s attention, which is an excellent summary on recent events in the capital. It is from Wilson`s Weekly Wrap which appears in Architecture Scotland.

"Thinking out of the box, or just out of the box?

Like buses, you can go a long time without seeing anything in the Scotsman that is even vaguely about architecture and then – lo – two features in one week. Well, not so much features as opinion pieces by a duo of well-known architects stationed on separate sides of the Caltongate divide. The first, by Malcolm Fraser, sought to articulate the protagonists’ position and whilst it made a bold case for seeing the proposed architecture as a continuation of Edinburgh’s strong urban traditions, it lapsed early on into a justification of the kind of statistics so well-loved by politician and, by default, developers – the supposed number of jobs created in construction and the predictions of total jobs established as a result of the finished development itself.

The trouble with this argument is that developers are not actually in the business of creating jobs but, more fundamentally, in the business of making themselves piles of dosh. If the development equation most profitable to them also responds to outdated political imperatives, all well and good, but this usually equates to those aspects of their projects they can pre-let to others who actually are in the business of front-line employment. No pre-lets, no development finance: precisely the problem that brought down Mountgrange, the developer for Caltongate – put simply, nobody else saw commercial benefit in their project just at the time when the company most needed them to.

The question is whether or not the scheme that proved so seductive to the City of Edinburgh Council and the Chamber of Commerce will, when the economy begins to recover, prove to be quite as enticing. In any case – and Malcolm surely understands this all too well – the number of jobs created is never contingent upon the quality of the architecture proposed and any project for this site could just as easily max out the figures to suit its case for political approval. Whether or not the scheme is – as Malcolm asserts – hugely better than previous proposals for the site will no doubt be the subject of ongoing debate given that these predecessors were simply (as it was for Caltongate before the crunch) the most financially beneficial for the developers of the day. None were perfect, none were based on any assessment of the actual civic needs of Edinburgh.

So to James Simpson, an architect who, by virtue of the long tenancy his practice previously had in an office just off the Canongate, knows the Old Town just as intimately as Malcolm. As a noted conservationist, James makes the case for a more Geddes-ian approach, albeit less specific since he is not fronting an alternative project. James is spot-on in one respect though – history does show that times of high economic pressure are often bad for historic cities, although whether or not the principles espoused by Patrick Geddes could provide an alternative funding scenario for the Caltongate site is not a question likely to be tested by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The prime movers of the anti-Caltongate cause, however, has been SOOT (Save Our Old Town), a loose agglomeration of local residents and others that, in the wake of Mountgrange’s demise, has boldly initiated the formation of a ‘Canongate Community Development Trust’ to consider and promote an alternative vision for the site. Nobody should doubt the intentions or the energies of this group – they have been far sharper in generating press and public support than the aforementioned Mountgrange, despite the latter’s considerable investment in marketing and public relations. But the real question for this large city centre site is one the Council long ago abrogated responsibility for: the need for a proper civic vision that transcends the development imperatives of specific interest groups whichever sector they happen to come from.

Realpolitik in Charlotte Square
Given the way the tectonic plates of local politics have been shifting of late, it was probably bound to happen, so the only surprise is that it’s taken so long for Edinburgh’s World Heritage Trust (EWHT) to be banned by its two principal funders from commenting on major developments in the city. Not wishing to be seen to be wielding the big stick themselves, the city’s Council and Historic Scotland appointed consultants who – shock, horror - came to the conclusion that the Trust was “too adversarial” and was responsible for “considerable tension” with the two partner bodies that until now have provided it with £1m plus of public money per year.

The City of Edinburgh Council has, as the Wrap has mentioned before, always found itself confused by the World Heritage Site status awarded to its Old and New Town areas as a result of an application to Unesco by Historic Scotland in 1995 and consequently has tried to accommodate it in the only terms it understands - tourism and commercial benefit. Giving the EWHT carte blanche to veto duff planning applications certainly wasn’t part of that agenda, and there can be little doubt that the Trust’s acerbic comments on the Council-approved Caltongate project was the straw that finally gave the municipal camel the hump.

Not that it admits as much – no, Jim Lowrie, the current chair of planning, insists the Council is simply trying to “streamline” the planning process in the capital. What streamlining means in this instance is a requirement that the Trust direct its energies towards the promotion of the World Heritage site to tourists, to work with schoolchildren and to develop projects to restore historic buildings and monuments. The latter has a particular piquancy, given that the Council and Historic Scotland have long since ceased to allocate the levels of funding to the Trust that facilitated useful grant aid to building owners. And just to confirm it’s got the message, an EWHT source is reported as saying that “we’ve been told to keep our heads down or face substantial funding cuts…it was very much a case of take it or leave it.”

In days gone by (and surely that’s the world most loved by the EWHT board?), political pressure of this sort would not be tolerated and from the chair down, mass resignation would be the order of the day rather than be seen as the patsies who succumbed to totalitarian stricture. Not so, it seems: as chair of a now revisionist EWHT, Charles McKean has simply commented to the effect that ”the recommendations made reflect a change of emphasis towards more targeted grant-giving (sic), project work in the public realm and interpretation of the World Heritage site. That may well be the case, Charles, but it does make the rest of us wonder what the last 14 years of street-by-street, building-by-building combat by the Trust have really all been about. "

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Red Bull gives you Caltongate

Almost ten years ago what was "Caltongate King" Manish Chande up to?
Drinking energy drinks and running past pop star`s houses. Nowadays he is throwing champagne receptions and renting 8 council houses from the City of Edinburgh Council, denying people in the capital a home.

"A £300m deal with Land Securities will make property chief Manish Chande a major construction client, but contractors aren't his favourite people.

It's just after lunch and Manish Chande breezes into the meeting room of his Barbican offices with a can of Red Bull in his hand. He's always drinking the stuff – not so much to quench thirst, he says, but to pump more caffeine into his system. It's virtually the secret of his success. "It keeps you going, especially if it's 11 o'clock at night and you've got to work late," he says."

"Lives In Hampstead – I run past Noel Gallagher's house, Supernova Heights, in Belsize Park most mornings.""

Full article here