Let There Be Light: A short critique of the proposed India Buildings hotel.
As with most major planning applications, developers typically prevail through a process of attrition; initially overwhelming the public with hundreds of pages of documentation, then submitting revised plans in response to initial objections, and then finally invoking a right of appeal (which communities are DENIED), if planning consent is refused.
With ‘a presumption in favour of sustainable economic development’, to those with experience, it seems as if the planning process is a ‘done deal’, in spite of so called ‘democracy’, and that society has only taken baby steps from feudal times, such is the favour still shown to those who have land and wealth.
In the case of the proposed India Buildings hotel, for ease of understanding, a one page critique is available to download here:
The text reads:
Let There Be Light In Edinburgh’s Old Town!
In recognition of the support of all ward Councillors, MSP’s, the local MP, the Old Town Community Council surrounding Community Council’s, and the many thousands of Citizens who have signed the 38 Degrees petitions:
This campaign opposes the decision of Edinburgh Council to approve a massive 11 storey, 225 bed hotel in the heart of the Old Town at India Buildings on Victoria St, extending down to the Cowgate. Application: 15/04445/FUL
The local community considers this proposed development will have very serious long term implications for the Old Town and the reputation of the City, and regard the Council’s planning report in favour of the hotel to have been significantly flawed; presenting insufficient, misleading, contradictory information, revealing a serious conflict of interest (see below). In awarding planning permission, key evidence, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, was withheld from Councillors, which would otherwise have almost certainly resulted in REFUSAL.
In spite of a Council that pledged to: ‘work together with local communities, a council where co-operation, fairness, accountability and responsibility really matter’, the proposed development has resulted in the sale of three very significant public assets without any public consultation to discuss alternative options.
These assets are:
- The gap site of the Cowgate, otherwise long set aside to develop the Central Library as a key cultural hub in recognition of Edinburgh’s distinguished title as the ‘1st UNESCO World City of Literature’, thereby honouring the legacy of founder, Andrew Carnegie, who desired the Library “grow in usefulness year after year and prove one of the most potent agencies for the good of the people of Edinburgh for all time to come”.
- The Cowgatehead Church, a well used and long established NHS clinic that served the most vulnerable in the community; now fated to be integrated into the hotel & converted to a licensed venue in an area of over provision.
- 11-15 Victoria Street, adjoining tenement to India Buildings, which the local community desire to be converted to long term residential property, given the critical decline in the residential population, driven out by Air B&B’s etc.
• Inspired by Robert Burns and The Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh Central Library, the city’s first public library, is the finest Carnegie endowed library in the country; one of the first of thousands the Scot’s born philanthropist established throughout the World. In recognition of its importance, the building was recommended for Category A status in 2002, but in a serious dereliction of duty was not upgraded until after planning permission had been granted for the hotel, in May 2016. Given the evidence, had the Central Library been afforded the recognition and protection of Category A status the hotel would have almost certainly been REFUSED planning permission.
• In addition to filching land for the Library, the bulk of the hotel would overshadow the building and block iconic views to the Castle from the Edinburgh and Scottish Rooms, significantly reducing light to a building designed specifically to allow maximum daylight, complimenting the motto inscribed above the Library’s entrance: ‘Let There Be Light’!
• Following a litany of damning articles in the national and international press, UNESCO have stated that the proposed hotel is one of seven developments it has “strong concerns about”, warning that the cumulative effects of ‘inappropriate development’ is an ‘ongoing threat’ to Edinburgh’s World Heritage status.
• The Grassmarket/ Cowgate is already highlighted as an ‘Air Quality Management Area’, with excessive levels of congestion, noise and air pollution, in breach of regulations. Consequently the Council’s own environmental officers recommended the hotel be REFUSED.
• With the Old Town community now reaching a critical point, all local Councillors have voiced strong concerns that the balance between residential and tourist led development is now seriously compromised.
If Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Parliament are not prepared to act in the best interests of the public and recognise the need for intervention, then the local community wish to acquire & develop these public assets, using the Community Empowerment Act, for the benefit of the nation.
Given the legacy of Carnegie, the Scottish diaspora and support of those who love this city, the campaign is confident that sufficient funds can be raised that would realise a World class re-visioning of the Central Library that would safeguard the library service and enrich the reputation of this City of Literature, World Heritage & Enlightenment.
“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert. There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library; this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
– Andrew Carnegie