CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to appeal the controversial decision to rubber-stamp plans for a £90 million housing development at the old Craighouse university campus.
The plans were passed by nine votes to six amid boos from a packed public gallery during a lengthy meeting at the City Chambers last night.
More than 1300 people had previously objected to the proposals for 145 properties at the former Napier University site, featuring 64 homes in the seven 16th and 19th-century listed buildings, and 81 within six new residential blocks.
One of those leading the charge for a U-turn was Edinburgh Southern MSP Jim Eadie, who accused council planners of ignoring
The SNP politician said: “I am going to call on the Scottish Government to call in the decision as I am concerned this is the wrong precedent for Edinburgh.
“The will of local people has not been listened to.”
He added: “The proposals for the listed buildings do not excuse new-build at the expense of a much-loved green space which Craighouse represents.”
Planning officers earlier recommended that permission be granted for homes at the historic site as part of an “enabling development” case, which prioritises the
preservation of the listed buildings above other concerns.
The development consortium known as the Craighouse Partnership – made up of Sundial Properties, Napier University and Mountgrange Investment – has been spending £250,000 a year on maintaining the listed buildings, which they said were falling into a state of “gentle” disrepair.
But furious residents have complained the salvation of the listed buildings is not enough to mitigate the problems with the application, ranging from pressure on local schools, to flooding, congestion and damage to a protected site.
They also argued the Craighouse Partnership proposal was not the only
solution on the table to protect the listed buildings.
The meeting even heard an alternative plan for a community buyout of the site by Edinburgh-based entrepreneurs Joe Frankel, who owns compostable cutlery business Vegware, and Andrew Richards, founder of technology firm Codeplay.
The suggested plan, which had an estimated price tag of £4-5m, set out ideas for a wide-ranging project which would involve art galleries, cafes, business space and hotels.
But that was ignored and campaigners fear the decision will set a dangerous precedent for other protected sites in the city.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “This is nothing short of a betrayal of the thousands of people who have submitted objections to the massive over-development of Craighouse as one of the most special places in the city.”
Cllr Melanie Main added: “In deciding to ride roughshod over a host of planning protections, those members of planning committee who supported the application have not only signalled a dramatic change at Craighouse, they have utterly undermined their future credibility as custodians of the city.”
There was even criticism from Cllr Sandy Howat, vice-convener of the planning committee, who said: “I think we are setting a very bad precedent, failing the community and the city as a whole.
“We need to keep fighting to make sure we have the appropriate development for the site.” The SNP councillor, who represents Morningside and the Meadows, said he would be “reviewing” his role on the committee after the completion of the Local Plan next year.
He said: “I still have some unfinished business on this committee, but let’s say my confidence in some of my colleagues has diminished.”
Despite pledging during the meeting that “work will start tomorrow”, the developers have confirmed construction could begin by next summer.
William Gray Muir, managing director of Sundial Properties, said: “It has not been an easy task getting to this stage, but I am confident the plans approved by councillors represent the best future for Craighouse.
“The way we will win over the community groups is by developing a fantastic site.
“We are absolutely committed to the Craighouse site.”
Planning convener Councillor Ian Perry insisted the decision wouldn’t set any sort of precedent as all applications are judged on their individual merits. He said: “This has been a very difficult decision for the committee to make and I appreciate that not everyone will be happy.
“The committee’s main concern was to protect the listed buildings from further deterioration and I believe this was the best outcome. During the three years this proposal has been discussed, the developer has taken on board concerns from the community such as significantly reducing the number of houses to be built.”
The Craighouse Partnership has pledged to invest £500,000 in the surrounding area, including £336,000 earmarked for South Morningside Primary School and £150,000 for preserving the future of the Craighouse woods.
Campaigners shed tears of frustration
SHOUTS of “shame on you” echoed down from a packed public gallery as campaigners and residents took in the news that plans for the controversial Craighouse development have been accepted.
The heated meeting, which stretched to nearly eight hours, dissolved into chaos when the result was announced, with some campaigners leaping out of their chairs to shout at members of the planning committee while others shed tears of frustration.
Tensions were high during the meeting as members of the audience gave lengthy bouts of applause to campaigners speaking against the development, which was described by Councillor Maureen Child as “one of the toughest planning decisions I’ve ever had to make”.
Protesters from the Friends of Craighouse campaign group have pledged to fight the development to the bitter end.
Bearing placards and hand-painted signs, the group gathered outside the City Chambers before the meeting to voice their disapproval of the £90 million plans.
Speaking afterwards, the group’s spokeswoman Rosy Barnes said: “After a whole day of talking about how this development does not meet endless planning guidelines, it just seems mad. The developers haven’t got a maintenance plan for the listed buildings so how can they take care of these historic buildings?”
The housing development was not motivated by housing need but rather a desire to make money, she suggested.
Rosy added: “We are going to fight this.
“This is not some ordinary planning application for Edinburgh, it is of national significance.”
Many residents from the Craighouse area said they were surprised and disappointed by the result which they had fought hard to prevent.
Kate McIlwraith, of Craighouse, said: “We are disgusted by the decision.
“I was worried it might go through as planning officials had recommended it, but I thought the councillors would listen to the people as there is such a strong case against it.”
The 66-year-old added: “I don’t think they understand what the site means to the community and to the whole of Edinburgh.”
But the decision was good news for some residents, who spoke out in favour of the development during the meeting.
Betty Barber, from the nearby Craiglea Place Proprietors Association, begged councillors to approve the plans as she said many of the residents living in the complex were concerned over their safety with the empty buildings right on their doorstep.
She said: “We want the Craighouse campus to be lived in by families.
“We don’t like having the empty campus on our doorstep as although there is security there, it is not the same as having people there looking out for each other.”