HOPES of overturning controversial plans for a £90 million housing development at the old Craighouse university campus have been dashed after Scottish Government Planning Minister Derek Mackay refused to intervene.
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said it was “a bad day for Edinburgh and for Scotland” after Mr Mackay turned down his plea to “call in” the application for a final decision by ministers.
Mr Eadie claimed the site’s A-listed buildings, unique biodiversity and wildlife were of national significance and the go-ahead for the development set a dangerous precedent.
He said: “If you can build on one of the seven hills of Edinburgh, you can build anywhere in Scotland.”
But Mr Mackay insisted planning decisions were for local authorities and there was no national interest which would allow him to step in.
The development – approved by the city council last month – involves 145 properties at the former Edinburgh Napier University site, including 64 homes in the seven 16th and 19th-century listed buildings, and 81 within six new residential blocks.
Development consortium the Craighouse Partnership, made up of Sundial Properties, Napier University and Mountgrange Investment, argued the new blocks of flats were needed to help finance bringing the historic buildings back into use.
But residents have opposed the plans on a wide range issues, from pressure on local schools to flooding, congestion and damage to a protected site.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Eadie said the plan would set a dangerous precedent for other valuable sites in Scotland and urged ministers to call in the application.
But Mr Mackay said planning decisions should be taken at local level unless there were compelling reasons for taking them at a higher level.
He said: “The impacts of this application are local to the Craighouse area and do not raise issues of national importance that would merit Scottish ministers calling in the application.
“I do not believe that planning applications set precedents, because each case is taken on its individual merits.”
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone backed Mr Eadie’s call, saying all seven local councillors, the local MP and MSPs opposed the plan and a record 1200-plus public objections were received.
Tory Lothian MSP Cameron Buchanan added his support, arguing Edinburgh was trying to avoid building on green space.
Afterwards, Mr Eadie said he was frustrated by the rejection.
He said: “I am extremely disappointed at the minister’s failure to call in this planning application, which drives a coach and horses through both local and national planning policies and protections.
“The local community has been united in its opposition to this development.
“I remain convinced that it is possible to renovate the A-listed buildings and secure a viable future for the site without the need for new build but sadly that robust case was not accepted by the council.”