Top Scots authors call for Caltongate to be axed

The controversial Caltongate development in the Old Town. Picture: comp
The controversial Caltongate development in the Old Town. Picture: comp
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HIGH-profile Scottish authors have launched a public campaign to shelve a controversial development in the heart of the Old Town – insisting it will “tear apart the fabric of the city”.

Literary giants including Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh have backed a petition calling for the Caltongate blueprints to be scrapped and decrying the city’s planning department.

An open letter, signed by 22 authors, urges Scottish Parliament intervention to halt the development – that would see three hotels, office block, shops and 185 homes built on a derelict gap site near Waverley Station – claiming it is the “greatest assault” on Edinburgh’s heritage since the doomed Abercrombie redevelopment plan of the 1940s.

The £150 million Caltongate plan was rubber-stamped in January with South African developers Artisan claiming it will deliver around 2000 jobs.

Heritage groups condemned the designs and a 5000-strong petition opposing the Caltongate plan was submitted to the City Chambers.

Today, some of Scotland’s best-loved authors urged concerned citizens to sign an online petition declaring “no confidence” in Edinburgh’s planning department.

Around 2000 names have already been added.

The protest letter brands Caltongate a “massive stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete” that “is completely at odds with its surroundings”.

It adds that government bodies such as Historic Scotland have “said nothing” while Edinburgh World Heritage has been “silenced by council pressure”.

It reads: “The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a cityscape of international importance. Not only are they one of the jewels of Scotland and Europe but the tourism they generate produces millions of pounds and sustains thousands of jobs. It seems unthinkable that this legacy should be under threat.”

Later, it adds: “A council seemingly without a clue, a planning department without a clear plan and a developer motivated entirely by short-term financial gain are conspiring to tear apart the fabric of this great city.”

In a tight vote that ultimately green lit the Caltongate development, Cllr Nigel Bagshaw branded it “alien” to the character of the Old Town and “wouldn’t be out of place on the surface of the moon”.

Councillor Joanna Mowat drew exasperated gasps from the gallery when she described the designs as “not hideous enough to reject”.