Following the city-wide meeting at Central Hall on 29th May, a meeting was organised on Monday 16th July to discuss forming an alliance between local groups and individuals concerned by inappropriate and insensitive development in Edinburgh.
Thank you to all who attended, whether as members of particular groups or as individuals.
Short accounts of concerns and experience were given by all groups present:
Save Leith Walk
Save Comiston Farmhouse
Community Councils Together on Trams
The Grassmarket Residents Association
Granton Castle Wall Garden Group
Tollcross Community Council
Friends of the Meadows & Bruntsfield Links
Edinburgh Canal Society (accounts of the latter two were given by the Tollcross CC representative)
Let There Be Light Edinburgh
Recurrent concerns included the way new hotel construction and short term lets are undermining residential communities, exacerbated in particular by a considerable increase in student housing. Moreover, much dissatisfaction/ disaffection was expressed with the processes for granting planning permission, which all too frequently permit well-argued views from local communities to be discounted or even dismissed.
The idea of forming an alliance or network whereby groups and individuals could communicate with, and assist, each other was then discussed. The general spirit of the meeting was constructive and positive, with some interesting exchange of ideas and experience, encouraging the prospects for co-operation.
A small provisional steering group was formed, and will meet soon to discuss how these ideas can be taken forward and report back to those who attended the meeting and others wishing to be involved in the alliance.
The Let There Be Light Edinburgh campaign will remain focussed on the threat to the Central Library/ Old Town Community of the proposed Virgin Hotel site but is keen to promote city-wide cooperation to work towards an alternative, community-led future for our city.
Revised applications (Listed Building Consents) have recently been submitted to the Council by the developer acting on behalf of Virgin Hotels.
These are for modifications to the original consented plans (approved by the previous Council administration) and though changes to the original plans are relatively minor, with sufficient public pressure the new Planning Committee would need to scrutinised these applications and should do so in the context of re-evaluating the entire proposed hotel development.
Dear Elected Representative,
Following May 2017 local elections, the new Edinburgh Council administration has shown willing, in the case of the former Royal High School, to significantly re-evaluate contentious proposed developments of the previous administration in response to the “deeply worrying, strong concerns” of UNESCO. Additionally, the new Council, unlike the previous administration, supports a Community Right of Appeal in response to the Scottish Government’s ‘game changing’ Planning Review, acknowledging the unfairness of the planning system which currently only grants appeals to developers.
According to Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas (Scotland) Act 1997, planning is to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the special interest and setting of a listed building and to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of conservation areas, matters that should be accorded considerable importance and weight. The presumption is therefore that development proposals should not harm the special interest of a listed building or the character and appearance of a conservation area.
Given the recent submission of planning applications (18/02279/LBC, 18/02280/LBC, 18/02281/LBC) associated with the highly contentious proposed India Buildings/ Virgin Hotel development (which the Old Town Community Council concludes would imperil the future of Edinburgh Central Library, the Old Town Community and the reputation of this City of Literature, World Heritage and Enlightenment), an appeal is made to Councillors serving on the Planning/ Development Management Committee to use all powers available in the public interest to fully scrutinise these applications in the context of the overall proposed development (Application 15/04445/FUL).
Many serious unresolved questions have been raised throughout this case, including a lack of regard to environmental, cultural and heritage impact, particularly the setting of listed buildings, excessive levels of air pollution (in breach of EU regulation) and traffic and pedestrian safety, which would be further exacerbated due to the proposed relocation of restaurant and kitchen facilities to the new building on the Cowgate.
The integrity and veracity of the developer’s assessments are now in question following the conclusion of the recent Council commissioned independent daylight assessment, which reveals that natural light to the Central Library would diminish by as much as 80+%.
An independent Heritage Impact Assessment of the proposed development, taking into consideration the upgraded A listed Central Library and its setting, historical archives not previously referenced and ‘intangible’ elements of OUV, in particular the historic/ cultural significance of the Library (as the flagship cultural asset relating to Edinburgh’s title as the 1st UNESCO World City of Literature and the finest Carnegie endowed library in the country of the founder’s birth), in order to clarify the Applicant’s conclusion* that the development would have ”no adverse impact on the character or appearance of the conservation area or the setting of adjacent listed buildings.”
An independent traffic and environmental impact assessment to clarify the proposed development would neither breach EU Law nor “introduce any implications in terms of road or pedestrian safety”.
An enforcement Stop Notice until these actions are concluded.
* Note: The heritage assessment of the Applicant is outdated, referring to the Central Library as a Category B (and NOT Category A) listed building; a crucial material change of national/ international significance requiring reassessment by Historic Environment Scotland. The Assessment is also incomplete and purposely selective, while the latest fast tracked application 15/04445/VARY is in error, describing the extension to 11-15 Victoria Street as constructed in the 1960’s, when it is actually late 19th century.
It is deeply disappointing that the Council have declined to validate the recently submitted Council Petition, which given the opportunity presented in assessing the associated LBC applications makes the case even more pressing for Councillors to use all powers available to fully scrutinise this development in serving and upholding the public interest.
Under the circumstances given the controversy of this case, representatives from the local community and the campaign ‘Let There Be Light Edinburgh’ should be allowed the opportunity to give deputations at the hearing of the LBC applications.
Please accept this correspondence as an endorsement of the above points and an objection against the LBC applications.
Carnegie’s Legacy headlined the recent Letters to the Editor in, The Times (Scotland), urging the City of Edinburgh Council to revoke planning permission for the consented India Buildings hotel development under Section 65 of the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.
Such is the momentum of concern now that the full implications of such a development, just a few metres away from Edinburgh’s Central Library’s west elevation, on ground intended for its future expansion needs from the day it was designed that no less than nineteen champions of the literary world have put their names to this plea.
The roll call of library supporters include authors, artists, publishers and performers as well as academics and historians, including Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay (poet laureate to the sassenachs reading this):
David J Black, Rory Bremner, Ron Butlin, John Byrne, John Calder, Regi Claire, Professor Sir Tom Devine, Owen Dudley Edwards. Rosemary Goring, Jackie Kay, A L Kennedy, Val McDermid, Candia McWilliam, Alistair Moffat, Ian Rankin, James Robertson, Iain Sinclair, Alexander McCall Smith and Alan Taylor.
And, although too late to be included in this letter published 26 May 2018, Margaret Atwood, 2004’s First Muriel Spark Fellow, also backs the campaign to save Central Library #SaveECL
A fitting reminder, should we have needed one, of Edinburgh’s international reach in the sphere of modern twentieth century literature. Apologies Margaret Atwood, I was of course alluding to Dame Muriel Spark in this her centenary year.
Scottish novelist James Robertson contacted the campaign recently and commented: “I have spent many, many hours reading, researching and borrowing books from the Central Library over the years, and am appalled at the City Council’s low regard for what should be cherished, and cared for, as one of Edinburgh’s cultural jewels.” Read more
The proposal to built yet another large hotel in Edinburgh alongside the Central Library is more than a local tragedy. It is an international disgrace.
Andrew Carnegie, son of an unemployed radical weaver, was a philanthropic American for much longer than he was a proud Scot. His family was so poor they spent their first night in the USA sleeping in the open because they couldn’t afford a lodging house. Andrew was eleven years old, and throughout his life was always keenly aware that education had been the key to his success. Read more
With the political process having failed, and the Save Edinburgh Central Library campaign now left with no other option than to undertake legal proceedings against Edinburgh Council’s decision to award planning permission for this highly controversial proposed hotel, it would seem reasonable to assume, with the authority of the planning consent being challenged, that development could NOT proceed until this matter was settled in court; particularly so since the sale of associated public assets was on condition of planning consent. Read more
For those with time and inclination, the Old Town Community Council has produced a detailed assessment of the hotel application and the corresponding planning process (see link below), revealing that the Council’s planning report in favour of the hotel was ”significantly flawed’, presenting insufficient, misleading, contradictory information, representing a clear conflict of interests due to the proposed disposal of valuable public assets implicated with the application. Read more
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. Read more
We’re organising a City-wide public meeting to encourage communities and campaigns across Edinburgh to come together to express common discontent with the current planning system, and in regards to the Virgin Hotel demand that The Council, The Parliament and Sir Richard Branson Read more
In response to the threat of the loss of associated public assets, including the NHS Cowgatehead Church homeless clinic, individuals from the homeless community valiantly took up occupation of the Cowgate gap site for 5 months, before being evicted in October 2016, following court action. Read more