Just 1 of 15 elected-Councillors agrees to meet MP and OTCC

In response to pressure from the resident population, Old Town Community Council (OTCC) had organized a meeting for 9th March 2018. The purpose was to discuss the proposed request from OTCC and Tommy Sheppard MP, to implement Section 65 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. This could have led to the withdrawal of planning permission for the India Buildings hotel development, if deemed expedient.

OTCC’s case for a Section 65 is available here.

Copyright © 2015 Urban Realm Ltd

 

Section 65 is a legitimate part of the planning process. It is intended for members of the public to engage our elected Councillors, in the event of public concerns regarding a specific planning decision.

Copyright © 2017 Let There Be Light Edinburgh

 

We invited fifteen City-wide elected Councillors to the meeting organised for 9th March 2018. One accepted our invitation (note 1), four declined (note 2) and ten did not respond (note 3). This is disappointing, because the business of the meeting is directly relevant to their roles as elected-Councillors.

On 25th May 2016, the Development Management Sub-Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee, gave planning consent by 8 votes to 6, for a major 225 bedded hotel right in the middle of Old Town (note 4)  A big new-build would incorporate four principal buildings : the category A listed India Buildings on 1-6 Victoria Street, the category B listed former Cowgatehead Free Church at 14-20 Cowgate, the category B Cowgate 28-36 and the category C listed 11-15 Victoria Street. India Buildings was the former offices of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages and it hosted UK’s first same-sex civil partnership ceremony in Scotland, England or Wales.

The loss of land at Cowgatehead has been the focus of the independent campaign, Let There Be Light. They pursued a Judicial Review to overturn the planning decision. This was unsuccessful.

The land at Cowgatehead has considerable historic and cultural significance. Lying unused for 40+ years, this was intended to house a future extension to the category A listed Central Library on George IV Bridge, just one of almost 3,000 libraries that Andrew Carnegie funded around the World. Edinburgh’s Central Library is considered the finest Carnegie Library built in the Country.

It is the view of the resident population and OTCC, that the proposed hotel plan will negate Andrew Carnegie’s legacy and seriously impact on the levels of light in the Category A listed Central Library on George IV Bridge.

For the residents of Old Town and neighbouring areas, this planning decision will have serious implications on their quality of life experiences and health.

Already an area of overprovision with licensed premises, a third large hotel will bring more tourists, more traffic congestion, more noise, more anti-social behaviour, more waste and more pressure on ageing infrastructure, including the sewerage system. It will further increase air pollution, which already exceeds maximum recommended levels throughout the year.

In our view, the opportunity to meet and discuss our concerns, should have been welcomed by all of the 15 invited Councillors. Their ability to make informed and possibly better decisions could be compromised. And if that isn’t enough of a reason to attend then it is our view that the ten elected-Councillors who did not respond, should at least have the courtesy of declining our invitation with an apology.

In closing, the OTCC welcomes the current Edinburgh Council’s willingness to reappraise contentious decisions of the previous administration, having unanimously rejected the revised plans for the controversial Former Royal High School development.

It is our view that rejection of the proposed India Buildings hotel development is even more important than rejection of the proposed Royal High School development. This is because the four listed buildings in the development (see paragraph 4 above) and Central Library are public buildings while the Royal High School building is not. The five principal buildings are architectural statements not only for our community but for the City of Edinburgh and by extension, the whole of Scotland.

Additionally, in response to the Scottish Government’s Planning Review, the OTCC welcomes the City of Edinburgh Council’s support for the implementation of a Community Right of Appeal in the planning system.

A public meeting is being organised to promote a Section 65 order against the proposed India Buildings development and to highlight other related concerns. This will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 2nd May, at the Central Hall, Tollcross.

 

Notes

1. Joanna Mowat was the only elected Councillor to accept OTCC’s invitation to attend the meeting on 9th March 2018 with Tommy Sheppard MP.

2. Four elected Councillors declined the invitation : Karen DoranClaire Miller, Gavin Barrie and Lezley Marion Cameron.

3. Ten elected Councillors did not respond : Alasdair Rankin, Ian Campbell, Cammy Day, Alison Dickie, Marion Donaldson, Neil Gardiner (Convenor of the CEC Planning Committee), Lesley MacInnes, Adam McVey (Council Leader), Ian Perry and Donald Wilson

4. A video of the Development Management Sub-Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee, held on On 25th May 2016 is available here. The relevant papers were Item 6.1(a) Protocol Note written by the Interim Head of Strategy and Insight and Item 6.1(b)-(f) Minutes

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