Residents forced to drop costly Craighouse review

The former Craighouse campus. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The former Craighouse campus. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to build dozens of new homes on parkland at the historic Craighouse campus have withdrawn their application for a judicial review.

The Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood raised more than £9000 to battle developers, but are now facing defeat.

The Craighouse Partnership, who are behind proposals for the site, are set to press ahead with redeveloping the former Napier University campus and building scores of modern flats and townhouses on the surrounding parkland.

Campaigner Rosy Barnes said the Friends had made their decision amid growing legal complications and spiralling costs.

Ms Barnes also revealed that the judicial review system required individuals from the campaign group to take on all the financial risk of the case on behalf of the community – potentially leaving them with bills worth hundreds of thousands of pounds as costs escalated.

She said: “Judicial review is a very difficult system for communities as it requires public-spirited individuals to take on all the risk on behalf of those communities.

“We had agreement to proceed whilst those costs were controlled, so we could fundraise to support them.

“But we could not ask those individuals to take on that risk if the costs might escalate uncontrollably. Therefore, the extremely tough decision was made not to pursue the petition at this time. The dismissal was a formality with no bearing on the merits of the case.

“This is a great disappointment and a blow for justice for communities.

“Under the law, communities should be able to bring a judicial review in a way that doesn’t cripple them financially. But the system requiring individuals to take on unlimited risks to do so goes against that principle entirely.”

But campaigners promised their fight “wasn’t over”, with the group’s Andrew Richards adding: “The case can still be pursued if more comes to light or if anyone else comes forward.”

In April it was claimed vital information to do with the development was “kept from the public” after the Evening News reported valuations for the site submitted to councillors differed from those used by sales agents just a month later.

A spokesman for Craighouse Limited said work – including tree felling and archaeological trenching – was already under way at the site, with the project set to be completed as early as the end of 2019.

He said: “Having taken legal advice, it was clear that the objectors’ legal challenge was without merit, and we are pleased that the Court of Session has refused it.

“Given the level of scrutiny and the extent to which the council allowed for third party representation, we always believed that the proper process of the planning application was followed.

“Now that this matter has been addressed, we can focus on our plans to take the development forward in order to bring these important buildings back into use.”

A council spokesman said: “We are aware that the Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Woods have withdrawn their petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com