Friday, 3 July 2009

Life behind the Haymarket Hotel Saga

In this weeks Scotsman the people who have openly opposed the Haymarket Hotel were given an opportunity to talk about their experience.

We applaud them and know that the cost of speaking out can sometimes be unpleasant, but rewarding at the same time. Don`t give up...

What local residents think -

Wearying process that can eat up your time – and your money

THIS year, I spent my two-week summer holiday at the Holiday Inn next to Edinburgh Zoo – despite living in the capital's Dalry Colonies, near Haymarket.
I was there because, for the past two and a half years, I have been heavily involved in the Haymarket planning saga.

The Holiday Inn was hosting a public inquiry, but the residents' association very much felt like Cinderella going to the ball

Those of us who opposed the development but who couldn't afford a planning consultant or legal counsel had to spend a lot of money and time preparing for the inquiry in Edinburgh's Central Library, reading and photocopying. Electronic copies were not available to us, unfortunately.

At the Holiday Inn, we watched sandwiches (paid for on expenses) being delivered to the main parties, while we sneaked in our own (highly illegal) sandwiches to avoid the expensive hotel lunches and brought in our own drinks.

To add insult to injury, we also had to pay to print and post copies of the evidence we submitted to the inquiry (e-mail was not sufficient) and we did not have any administrators to do it for us or any company-supplied photocopiers to use.

We are now an organisation even more financially challenged than before as a result of this development, and I almost had to resort to begging at our AGM in April for residents' donations to keep us sufficiently afloat to allow us to continue to print newsletters.

If you ever get involved in one of these planning sagas yourself, then I hope you are rich and well-connected.

It would have been easy to be beaten down by what turned out to be a two-and-a-half- year-long, drawn-out process, but you do have to wonder whether that is what developers of sites such as this rely on: members of the public falling by the wayside because they assume that the system is against them and that they don't have the time (or money!) to be or stay involved.

• Maria Kelly is chairwoman of the Dalry Colonies Residents' Association.

Scotsman 29 June 09

Pensioners at the heart of hotel protests

PENSIONERS Agnes and Donald Dick, who live in the Dalry Colonies near Haymarket train station in Edinburgh, hardly fit the profile of 21st-century urban campaigners.
They describe themselves as "old school" and don't own a computer or mobile phone. They prefer quiet evenings at home in the house where Mr Dick was born. Mr Dick, 76, a keen Hearts supporter, likes watching war videos such as The Longest Day while his wife enjoys romantic wartime fiction.

But their cosy upstairs home has become the beating heart of a campaign to prevent Tiger Developments building a "landmark", 17-storey hotel, part of a £200 million project on the edge of the city's World Heritage Site.

Like younger campaigners, the couple say they are not against the site being developed, but they argue that it is out of scale with the surrounding area.

The couple's biggest weapons against the developers are their memories of the Dalry Colonies and a way of life they have perpetuated and which has galvanised younger campaigners used to a faster, but more impersonal, way of life.

Mr Dick keeps campaigners invigorated with stories of his childhood. Typical tales include him helping Tynecastle Homing Club take racing pigeons in baskets to Haymarket station to be released by station masters along the route at places such as Riccarton and Penrith. "I used to love race days," he says. "We'd sit with our tins of maize on a Saturday afternoon at the dovecot just up the road, rattling the tins to get the pigeons to come down to get clocked in. There was great excitement once when a strange pigeon flew in."

His wife says: "We feel that, at our age, there's not a lot we can do about the hotel. But we're worried if the hotel goes ahead the street will get a lot busier with cars and the hotel will overlook us.

"The hotel is far too high – it's as if the rest of us don't exist. The Hearts clock which sits in the middle of Haymarket has been our landmark and we don't need anything else."

She says that despite more "new people" moving to the colonies, the community is a peaceful haven in the city, both for them and for the pensioners in the nearby Fraser Court sheltered housing complex.

"It's so quiet here it's like being in the country," she says. "When you're walking you can hear the birds chirping and you rarely hear traffic. Going to the shops takes half an hour because people want to stop and chat."

Scotsman 29 June 09