Friday, 29 May 2009

Edinburgh Castle Outdated

In the republic last year, we told you of the council`s plan to re-brand Edinburgh and rename her Murrayburgh. after the architect they have charged with reshaping it

Well as things progress speedily, this week at the Haymarket Public Inquiry, it was suggested that well, castles are a bit old fashioned and de rigeuer of the day for city skylines are hotels and other symbols that scream Fred Goodwin, Mountgrange Capital basically " the age of greed"

The Haymarket Hotel artiste Murphy makes no apologies for changing the skyline.

But if his hotel is anything like his flats for us peasants in the Old Town, it will not be changing the skyline for that today is a day for getting out of town and building some castles on the beach ....perhaps a young Murphy was forever getting his sandcastles knocked down and this is his revenge.....big, bad hotels......The 17 Storey Haymarket Horror Hotel

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Old Town is becoming a ghost town

Oh dear, the Evening News has been counting the empty shops and cafes in the Old Town and according to them there are 29 empty ones, you can read about it here

The problem of course is the economic times but also the high rents and rates that are charged in the Old Town but also the constant upheaval of roads, streets and pavements. The high rents and rates and the indigenious population being displaced by the holiday makers who take up reisence at the weekend and during the summer ensured the closure of the shops communities need. Many years ago there was once a shop where you could buy coldmeat and a bag of coal - of course times change and perhaps chopped pork and coal are not the call of the day but it would be nice to buy some fresh fish or a packet of tea bags.

Local traders are telling the Republic that they are really struggling, they enjoy the buzz of the Old Town but cannot afford the high rents and rates, the council being one of the landlords that are squeezing the pips until they squeek.

It's funny though because the council appeared to believe that the Canongate was a great place for luxury retail in the now beleagered and washed out Caltongate. The citizens of the Canongate more than once pointed out that the retail need to be in Princes Street not being taken away from it.

But the other issue is how do we attract shops back to the Old Town? There are few shops that sell food - we have lost our co-op, fishmonger, butcher, baker, greengrocer and even our sweetie shop and that is in the Canongate alone.

Let's see what happens - will more businesses close down, will the Old Town become a ghost town?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Mountgrange wants a Divorce!

Breakdown of Caltongate marriage

THE DEVELOPER behind the collapsed £300 million Caltongate project in Edinburgh has indicated for the first time that it will not attempt to revive the project.

Manish Chande, co-owner of Mountgrange Capital, which was forced into administration by its banker Lloyds in March, told the Sunday Herald he was "close to divorce" from the project, expressing impatience with the planning delays and heritage objections that have dogged the four-year project.

Chande's decision to draw a line under Mountgrange's involvement in Caltongate comes as administrator Deloitte said it had held talks with other potential developers and that a deal could be "months if not weeks" away. This runs contrary to reports that Lloyds was leaning on the administrator to mothball the site until the commercial property market picked up in value.

Chande said of the development, which was to include a five-star hotel, more than 200 homes, offices, cafes, bars and a public square: "We have had our separation, and we are getting close to our divorce.

"We may not be the best buyer. After four years of work, we saw the issues that arose and we are perhaps slightly affected by it."

Chande's comments contradict speculation at the time of the Mountgrange Capital administration announcement that he and business partner Martin Myers would push to buy back the development from Deloitte at the earliest opportunity.

Chande responded that it was unlikely he and Myers would agree with the administrator's valuation of the site. Mountgrange Capital paid £20m for Caltongate in 2004, but it is not thought to be worth anything like that now.

John Reid, Deloitte's administrator for Caltongate, said he had not heard from Chande or Myers but added: "We have been talking to a number of other potential developers and expect to conclude within months if not weeks. It is our intention to move forward as quickly as we can."

Clearly The Evening News are not keeping up with divorce proceedings, with their front page headlines "Caltongate set to be revived by failed firm's ex-bosses"

Friday, 22 May 2009

The Great Calton & Gate Swindle part 2

Publicity shot for the forthcoming movie The Great Calton & Gate Swindle part 2

From an article in today`s Property Week

"Manish Chande and Martin Myers have re-emerged from the administration of Mountgrange Capital with £850m to spend on ‘the next big thing’

Martin Myers and Manish Chande reached the nadir of their careers in March with the administration of their company, Mountgrange Capital."

Myers says: ‘In the summer of 2006, we thought we would launch a fund and wind down the old Mountgrange – Mountgrange Capital – to launch the fund.

‘We saw autumn 2006 as the peak of the market and, although we did not anticipate the fall that we have seen, we saw that the market had reached its peak.’

Chande adds: ‘In autumn 2006 we saw the rate of growth beginning to slow.’"

Meanwhile here in the republic we are asking did the council officials and councillors know that they had no intention of continuing with the company that they had entered into a questionable land deal with? A Land deal which is currently being investigated by the EU?

If they did how was it that this information was not made known to the public?

Now we know all about what has been revealed in Westminster, surely now it is time to cast the net wider and increase transparency and accountability over decision making at local level.

Would the CEC consider selling off 'council land' at the bottom of the market to the same people just because they have changed their name and got money from different people?

A company which couldn't even cough up £18,ooo for council homes they had the council empty on their last round of pie in the sky promises?

also from article in Property week -

"So it seems remarkable that just weeks later a phoenix is rising from the ashes in the form of an £850m opportunity fund.

Chande and Myers, who have worked together since 1983, founding, running and selling Imry before the 1990 crash, and setting up Trillium, which they sold for £330m to Land Securities in 2000, suffered a bitter blow earlier this spring.

Their lender, Bank of Scotland Corporate, refused to lend a string of Mountgrange companies – including those developing the £300m Caltongate scheme in Edinburgh and the 160 acre Phoenix Park in Linwood, Paisley – any more money and, as the values of schemes continued to fall, they were forced into administration.

Among the assets sold by administrator Deloitte are horses from a stud farm that was owned by one of the Mountgrange companies, to raise money for creditors.

But it has now decided to hold on to the projects and is attempting to complete them to sell at a more profitable time.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Terry? Terry who?

Above is our favourite Terry here in the republic and a song from him with a great video..
that could be played to accompany the other Terry`s departing speech today in Edinburgh where he seemingly was the citys design champion for the past 5 years?

What the other Terry said at the beginning of his post here in Edinburgh in 2004 in The Telegraph

"How can a city be densely built without repeating the mistakes of post-war planning? How can the city be made socially inclusive?
How can it be made friendly to both walkers and car-users?
And how can Edinburgh's new waterfront development be integrated with the city as a whole?"

Now heres what he`s saying 5 years later in The Times from yesterday

“a lack of vision is ruining the city” and that its £512 million tram project highlights the failures of its moribund planning system."

On the eve of a conference of politicians, architects and planning professionals, Sir Terry said that Edinburgh's wonderful legacy was being undermined by a dangerous complacency among civic leaders whose lack of “bigger thinking” is allowing even its most famous street, Princes Street, to sink into “a shambles”.

and today as he leaves the city The Scotsman

"While reluctant to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the £300 million Caltongate project, which intended building shops, offices and a hotel in the Canongate in the Royal Mile, Sir Terry has outlined his vision for many other parts of the city.

These include plans for redeveloping a stretch just less than seven miles long in the Leith docks and Newhaven area, which he dubs "Waterfront City" and which he says would be on a par with the creation of the New Town."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

SOOT meeting tonight 7pm

© Poster created by local artist, David Hutchison

SOOT meeting and AGM is taking place tonight the 20th May 2009 at 7pm in Old Saint Pauls Church Hall, Jeffrey St. Finding Old Saint Pauls

In attendance tonight will be Andy Wightman who is a freelance writer, researcher and the author of Who Owns Scotland, one of his specialist areas is Scotland`s Common Good.

Since it was confirmed that developer`s
Mountgrange are in administration there have been many letters and artilces in the press suggesting what can be done with the now undeveloped site that was formerly the New Street Bus Depot. Prior to demolition in 2006, it was home to a bustling Sunday Market/ Car Boot Sale, artists studios (David Hutchison was one) , the Bongo Club (live music,clubs,yoga classes & arts) and a car park.

SOOT needs a much larger management committee to continue working and to take ideas forward and support those people involved. So do come along tonight and get involved.

SOOT will be needing people for the management committee and to take on individual roles such as fund raising, administration, publicity , membership secretary and other volunteers. Have you skills or perhaps you want to learn new ones?

If you can`t attend, do send an email to to say how you want to be more involved in SOOT.

After the official AGM business there will be an opportunity for discussion about the future and the proposed Old Town Development Trust as well as an opportunity to discuss Common Good issues with Andy Wightman.

See for more information and media coverage

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Mountgrange owes £18,000 in Rent

Mountgrange`s Manish Chande and his spin doctor Mark Cummings legging it from Edinburgh, leaving behind them debts including £18,000 in council house rent arrears....

Remember how through an FOI we in the republic found out that Mountgrange were renting the council houses see here

Caltongate failure set to free up condemned flats for rent

"UNDER-THREAT council houses on the Canongate are set to be reused after the collapse of the Caltongate scheme.

Developer Mountgrange Capital was meant to be meeting the cost of the rent while the flats laid empty but council chiefs today admitted they failed to collect a single penny before Mountgrange went into administration in March.

The outstanding rent is thought to be around £18,000, with officials admitting they are not sure how they will recover that money.

Council chiefs said they intend to assess the flats to see what it would take to bring the properties up to a condition fit for rent.

The nine council flats were due to be bulldozed or partially demolished as part of the Caltongate project, which was sunk when Mountgrange's bankers pulled the plug.

A further nine private flats at 227-229 Canongate have been bought up by Mountgrange over the last two years and are now in the hands of the administrator Deloitte.

Campaigners today welcomed the chance of getting people back into the empty properties, particular in light of the city's affordable housing crisis.The Macrae Tenements on the Canongate, which are lying empty and have lost the city thousands in rent

Julie Logan, spokeswoman for the Save Our Old Town campaign group, said: "We are really pleased that the council has finally seen the sense of the recommendation that we made in our Canongate project report.

"There should not be a lot to do to these flats because a lot of them have had new doors and glazing, and also modernised inside in recent years.

"It will be good to get people into these homes, even on a temporary basis, and then start to have a proper look at what can be done with the area longer-term."

City leaders are trying to find firms to take on the gap site but it is thought it could be years before work gets underway.

A council spokeswoman said, "The council is considering options for bringing the nine flats back into temporary use until the future of the Caltongate development is known.

"A number of considerations need to be taken into account including the cost of bringing these properties up to rentable condition, and the timescale in which the new development is due to begin. If this proves to be feasible and cost effective, then bringing these properties back into use is a real possibility."

She added: "One of the terms Mountgrange had provisionally agreed to was they would cover the rent loss associated with the empty Council properties.

"However, as discussions are ongoing with the administrators, we are not in a position to say how this will money will be recovered.""

Monday, 11 May 2009

What now for New Street?

An inner city allotment idea, perhaps a possible part of the temporary solution for New Street see more here

The following piece by Ian Fraser in The Sunday Times 10 May 09 in which he is calling on the council to listen to the community and

"Let imagination grow

Edinburgh city council ought to become more imaginative. Owing to new-found caution at Lloyds Banking Group, there is now a massive hole-in-the-ground in the heart of the old town where Mountgrange had been hoping to erect its hugely unpopular Caltongate development.

According to property experts this is likely to remain a vacant site for at least the next three to four years.

So perhaps councillors should listen to local residents who have suggested that the cleared former bus garage should be turned into an adventure playground and allotments for Edinburgh’s younger generation — at least until administrator Deloitte manages to sell on the site. After all, play is a human right too."

Article here 4th May 09 in Eve News on suggestions for city gap site

Letter here to Evening News 7th May suggesting a playground for site

Below an inner city community playground, ideas from London Here

But of course the ideas for the site are endless, and in the meantime lets get pressure on the council to get tenants back into the cleared flats, has Manish Chande stopped paying the rent?

and lets get people back into the Canongate Venture and the Former veg market back into use. Lets get them maintaining our public spaces and buildings, not allow them to fall into disrepair because Mountgrange used to playing Bingo promised them the jackpot..

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Re-Bridge The Gap Campaign

A new campaign to bring back the connection above from the Old Town to the New Town over Waverley Station was launched this week by a Canongate resident, never stop do we?? Its in the stonework we think.

In the campaign`s words - "Re-Bridge the Gap is a campaign group formed to secure the re-instatement of the important and historic link between the Old Town and Leith Walk. This is a historic link that existed for hundreds of years before British Rail closed it in the mid-1950s. For most of its history, it was the primary route from Edinburgh to Leith in the form of a street outside Edinburgh's eastern boundary called Leith Wynd. Due to the City Improvement Act of 1867, Leith Wynd was replaced with Cranston Street, which at the time ran all the way from the top of the Canongate to Calton Road. During the redevelopment of Waverley Station in the 1890s, objections to closing the northern section were so strong that Parliament required a pedestrian route be created and maintained by the railway company, to ensure the link between the Old Town and Calton Road was not lost. To satisfy this legal requirement, a footbridge was built from Jeffrey Street, across the roof of Waverley Station, to Calton Road."

See more and take action before the 15th of May at the campaign`s website here

The Canongate is going to be covered in SOOT once again here

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Flowers for the gap sites

Edinburgh Council wants to grass and plant flowers in the gap sites of Edinburgh hopefully in their attempt to win Britain in Bloom. Read more here. This is not a bad idea but it should not be the only idea for gap sites. The Caltongate site has a £100,000 bond for a land art scheme if work did not go ahead within 3 months of planning permission - more than a year later and Mountgrange in administration where is the land art scheme, where is the £100,000??? The Republic says "show us the money" - the contract states that the money was to be held in a joint bank account with the council and Mountgrange. The community should have a say how this bond should be managed and spent.

Contact your local councillor and ask about the bond and when will it be released. Citizens in the Republic think much more is needed than grass and some cornflowers, if it is to be a public space even temporarily then it needs to be thought about, whatever happens, a continued gap site would be an eyesore and a testimony to mismanagement .