Mass resignations end Old Town community council

The Caltongate plans raised concerns among the Old Town community council. Picture: comp
The Caltongate plans raised concerns among the Old Town community council. Picture: comp
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MASS resignations have forced the collapse of a community council in the World Heritage Site after volunteers claimed their concerns repeatedly fell on deaf ears.

The Old Town community council, chaired by Julie Logan, below, has been disbanded in protest at being routinely “ignored” by planning chiefs and because of the little support they were receiving from bosses at City Chambers, they have claimed.

Rather than civic apathy, members of the group said they were “fed up” of not being listened to when it came to raising concerns over large Old Town developments such as Caltongate.

And they felt the city council had failed to manage the dwindling retail options on the Royal Mile which was now being dominated by “tartan tat” outlets.

In a round robin e-mail to other city community councils, “ex-member” Simon Byrom said: “Having become so exasperated with the disregard shown by the City of Edinburgh Council towards the local community, and the lack of support and encouragement for community councils in general, the majority of Old Town community council members have now taken this decision to resign.”

He accused the city council of flagrantly ignoring their calls for “affordable, family housing” to maintain the “essential liveability of the Old Town”, instead leaving them to wade through “a barrage of applications for hotels and student accommodation”.

He said exhausted members simply wanted to counter “the disreputable image the city now has as a contrived tourist tat, late-night partying and drinking destination”, claiming: “Edinburgh Council has consistently ignored our concerns and representations to the extent of flouting regulations, engaging in the criminal neglect of public listed buildings and even threatening the coveted World Heritage status.”

Bill Cowan, the former planning secretary of the community council, said its role had been reduced to a “box ticking” exercise. He said: “When we tell them what’s needed they not only ignore us, they do the opposite.”

Conservative Lothians MSP Cameron Buchanan challenged Local Government Minister Derek MacKay on the city’s community council “crisis”, citing the disbanded Northfield and Willowbrae, and the now-defunct Southside bodies.

He said: “We need urgent action now to support and sustain our community councils or else more will disappear soon. ”

A council spokeswoman said the authority was “supportive” of community councils and felt they played a “valuable role in reflecting the views of the local community”.

She said: “We are extremely disappointed that the members of the Old Town community council have stepped down.”

Community councils are statutory consultants on major planning developments but all members are unpaid.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com