Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust - news

The heartfelt message written on the hoardings surrounding the proposed 'Caltongate' development site, in Edinburgh's Old Town,  part of the World Heritage Site, November 2008, for the UNESCO mission visit. The not-very-much -loved council offices overlook the site.

A  rapid blog post to bring the latest news in the campaign to save Edinburgh's Old Town World Heritage Site from inappropriate development and death by the promotion of tourism above a living city. This is moving on from the campaign to 'Save Our Old Town' from the 'Caltongate' development, which would have seen historic views blocked, a listed building demolished and inappropriate facade schemes for other listed and historic buildings.

Far more on the SOOT campaign here


Following the UNESCO mission visit last November, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was critical of the Mountgrange scheme, and asked for changes.


Mountgrange went into administration earlier this year, and the future of the site and the buildings is currently uncertain.

Proposed building by Malcolm Fraser for the Caltongate development

A development trust, working with the City of Edinburgh Council and other interested parties, in partnership with a more sympathetic developer who might actually listen to what local residents want, and not carefully manipulate 'consultation' alongside a discredited PR company, may possibly be a way forward.

So in response to the jibes by one of Mountgrange's Caltongate architects, Malcolm Fraser, at a talk he gave recently in Edinburgh in his position as newly appointed Geddes Professorial Honorary Fellow at the Uni, repeated in the Scotsman, as I said here at the end of this blog:


another time another post. So here we go.

The setting up of an Old Town  Development Trust  has been a long time in the making, and is not a sudden reaction to what Malcolm Fraser had to say, in the report here:


Professor Fraser, about to eat his hat and words?

...I have been appointed, jointly by Edinburgh University and the Art College's new, combined Architecture Department, as their "Geddes Honorary Professorial Fellow". Trained as a biologist, and a friend of Charles Darwin, Edinburgh's Patrick Geddes is regarded as the father of town planning, and understood that cities had to evolve, not stagnate. He's a hero, and I am proud to receive this honour.... 

Indeed. And think what an opportunity for good it can be,  for

and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests - Patrick Geddes

Malcolm Fraser: I am keen to use the position to help the city debate the issues around how it should evolve...

And he outlines certain proposals he is keen to see during his tenure

Here's one: Caltongate and community advocacy: when Mountgrange – my clients and the developer of the Caltongate site – went belly-up, I approached the "Save Our Old Town" community group, that have so lambasted the proposals, to suggest that, with legal and organisational advice from "Local People Leading" and finance from the Nordic Enterprise Trust (a Norwegian Oil Trust, looking to invest in social projects), they could step forward to lead. They told me that they would prefer to stay in their bunker and wait to lambast the next developer. Edinburgh needs communities who will take more responsibility than simply insulting those that wish to invest, and I asked they reconsider their refusal.

Well, there seems to have been some (I'm being charitable) crossing of wires here, and possibly Mr Fraser was too busy in his own bunker on North Bridge to bother to read what another Edinburgh architect, James Simpson, had to say in response to Mr Fraser lobbing a grenade out previously in an opinion article in the Scotsman on April 1st. James Simpson's Scotsman response of April 4th detailed the discussions, consultations and investigations SOOT members were making , and had been making, regarding the setting up of a development trust:

At its meeting on Wednesday evening, SOOT initiated the establishment of a Canongate Community Development Trust which intends to open discussions with the City Council, with a view to bringing the existing buildings on the site back into use as soon as possible, temporarily landscaping the main part of the site and developing new proposals for the incremental development of the site for a mixture of uses, including more houses. This may be what the citizens and all those who care for Edinburgh as one of the great cities of the world - including, perhaps, Malcolm Fraser - actually want!

No doubt he will be very welcome as a member of the Old Town Trust, with his expertise and experience and contacts and offer to help with funding?  Meetings have already been held, and discussions have taken place over a considerable period, regarding this.

As James Simpson went on to say (text of the full response to Malcolm Fraser is here):


Have we forgotten the efforts of civilised architects like Sir Robert Matthew and Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith, of campaigners like Eleanor Robertson, Colin McWilliam and Oliver Barratt and of Desmond Hodges and Jim Johnson in the Old and New Towns respectively? These were the people who brought international recognition to Scotland’s capital, and who secured its place as one of the great cities of the world... Sound principles for development in historic cities were first laid down in the early 20thC by Sir Patrick Geddes, pioneer town planner and father of urban conservation. Geddes believed that cities were living organisms and, in his theory of “conservative surgery” argued that change in established settlements should, whenever possible, be small and incremental. Why was all this (re Caltongate) ignored?

     PRESS RELEASE Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust
     Immediate Release 24.11.09
    Will a New Community Trust Help Stop Edinburgh's Old Town from Dying?
    This is one of the questions that the newly established Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust , will be asking at its first public meeting this Thursday 26th November at Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge from 7.30pm - 9.30pm.
    Catriona Grant a local resident and director of the trust, said today "Last week in Venice the last remaining long term residents held a mock funeral to dramatise the flight of residents from their city's heart. We may be holding one here soon, if we do not take action now. Like the Venetians we need affordable and also non HMO sized family housing, which encourages people, especially families, to stay or move into the area. Like Venice, prices are steep in the historic centre, and many landlords demand much more money, by advertising over the Internet to short stay visitors than with long-term rentals to residents." She added "We however as residents then have to live with the consequence of these which are often large hen and stag parties. We have become unpaid concierges and are disturbed at all hours, it is only because of a loophole in the law that they are turning the Old Town into one big unregulated hotel. There are health and safety issues that no one has addressed yet, as well as the obvious almost daily loss of long term inhabitants, with the knock on effect of losing local shops and perhaps even the last remaining school, along with other vital community facilities which ensure a living neighbourhood."
    Sean Bradley, a director of the trust and Chair of the Grassmarket Residents' Association said today "A community's greatest asset is its residents. The Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust is an historic opportunity for the people of the Old Town to shape its future for the benefit of all - that means improving opportunities and the quality of life for everyone" Last year's community research, The Canongate Project, (see below) showed that more support and facilities are needed for the residential population if a ‘living city’ is to be maintained in the Old Town. The research also highlighted the need for affordable housing, family sized homes, a better mix of local shops, community facilities, play space, public toilets, safe and usable green public space, along with residents having a say in future developments in the Old Town.
    The meeting is to include discussion on the trust's possible projects and Ian Cooke, Director of The Development Trusts Association Scotland will give an introduction to the fast growing network of development trusts across Scotland, and highlight the real differences they are making to the communities in which they are based. Catriona ends “So we are urging those who live in the area and outwith to come along and become a member of the trust. Help shape the future projects and the role the trust can play in an area, which is becoming increasingly dominated by tourism and the night-time economy often at the expense of those who call it home”
    ***Notes for Editors***  Meeting Details - The Public Meeting of The newly formed Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust which also covers the Dumbiedykes area is on Thursday 26th November `09 at Augustine United Church at 41 George IV Bridge EH1 1EL 7.30pm-9.30pm
    Google News on Venice: 
    The Development Trust Association Scotland: 
    Party Flats Edinburgh: 
    The Canongate Project:
    (Probably the 'worst type' of 'heritage zealot' as described by Mr Fraser, and proud of it.)
      This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests - Patrick Geddes

      The words of Patrick Geddes, set in stone outside the entrance to Malcolm Fraser's Poetry Library, Edinburgh

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