MP says Craighouse shows need for planning appeals

Protestors at the City Chambers were disappointed after seeing plans for the development of Craighouse passed by City Councillors.'' Pic: Neil Hanna

Protestors at the City Chambers were disappointed after seeing plans for the development of Craighouse passed by City Councillors.'' Pic: Neil Hanna

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THE controversial decision to approve a £90 million housing development on the old Craighouse university campus is evidence that Scotland’s planning system is not fit for purpose, a city MP claimed today.

Labour’s Ian Murray, who joined residents and community groups in opposing the scheme, said local people had been let down by the lack of a credible planning system.

And he called on the ­Scottish Government to carry out a review.

Campaigners have vowed to appeal against last week’s decision by the city’s planning committee to give permission for six new residential blocks totalling 81 flats in the Craighouse grounds along with the redevelopment of the campus’s 16th and 19th century listed buildings for another 64 homes.

Planning officers admitted the new buildings – located in the Craiglockart Hills Conservation Area – would affect the eye-catching surroundings, but insisted restoration of the historic buildings was the key objective.

Writing in today’s Evening News, Mr Murray said the council’s planning report used the word “detrimental” 51 times, but still recommended approval. Mr Murray, who served on the planning ­committee as a councillor, said: ”It is the most damning planning report I’ve ever read.”

He said the debate had rested on the issue of “enabling” development – allowing the new houses in return for restoration of listed buildings. But he said: “Enabling development as a concept is very new to Scotland so there is little to guide it.”

And he said the idea of ­giving objectors the right to appeal against planning ­decisions must be looked at again to restore public ­confidence in the system.

His call won backing from Morningside Community Council chair Arne Strid, who said: “We are disappointed there has been total disregard of the several breaches of Scottish Planning Policy in favour of the developers’ plan for saving the listed buildings at substantial profit. We do not accept that the guidelines on enabling development have been as fully considered as they could be.”

Green councillor Gavin ­Corbett said the council had relied on English Heritage guidance to assess the project as “enabling development”.

He said: “Scottish Planning Policy guidance urgently needs brought up to date before any other half-baked cases are allowed to slip through.

“I’m also interested in new-found enthusiasm for third party rights of appeal. Green MSPs argued for this as part of the 2006 Planning Act but were knocked back.”

Rosy Barnes, of Friends of Craighouse, said she backed third-party right of appeal, but believed there were clear rules on “enabling” developments.

“The planners and councillors pushing this bad ­development through simply disregarded them,” she said. “This development is clearly unacceptable according to local and national policy.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com