Developer appeals decision to block Canonmills project

A protest at the City Chambers over the proposed development at Canonmills. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A protest at the City Chambers over the proposed development at Canonmills. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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CAMPAIGNERS who won a planning battle to save a popular restaurant from the bulldozers are preparing for a fresh fight after a developer appealed against the decision.

Councillors refused consent for demolition of Earthy at Canonmills earlier this year after a concerted community campaign.

But now the threat to the low-rise building at Canonmills Bridge has returned after Glovart Holdings Ltd, which owns the site, lodged an appeal arguing loss of the premises would not harm the Inverleith conservation area.

The campaigners have submitted their response to the appeal, which will now be decided by a Scottish Government planning reporter.

Ross McEwan, an urban designer involved in the Save 1-6 Canonmills Bridge campaign, said: “This is an issue about sense of place. Many people love Canonmills – because of its history, the variation in townscape, access to nature. It is a gateway to the World Heritage site and a place for relaxation and gathering, with a strong community feel.

“A place has been created at Canonmills; a place will be destroyed if the current building is demolished – something precious will be lost.

“If the reporter decides to have a site visit we’re not allowed to speak to him, but we will have people with posters and banners so they can see the public support for the campaign.”

Glovart argues previous permission to build two restaurants, six flats and three townhouses on the site means loss of the Earthy building had already been assessed and deemed acceptable.

The company said the existing building “does not contribute to the character and appearance of the conservation area, and it therefore does not warrant retention”.

But the campaigners said in their response that planning permission and consent for demolition were separate processes which involved different considerations.

They claimed the law required the reporter hearing the appeal to have “special regard” to the building’s architectural and historical interest.

And they added: “The stringent tests applicable to applications in designated conservation areas cannot be circumvented to suit the commercial convenience of developers.”

The campaigners also point out the building has changed significantly since the planning application for redevelopment was first made.

“At that time, 1-6 Canonmills Bridge functioned as a string of small and sometimes forlorn looking units. In the past four years it has been improved and smartened up by current tenant Earthy, who unified the entire string as single premises. It has become a busy community hub, attracting customers from the local area and beyond.”

In the run-up to the decision by the council’s development management sub-committee in August to block the demolition, a petition to save the building attracted 2500 signatures on paper and 4800 online, while the group’s Facebook page got around 1600 “likes”.

Critics described the planned development for the site as “oversized” and “out of character”, labelling the design “safe, bland and lazy”.