Craighouse ‘sham’ property value claims

Developers set to build scores of homes on parkland at Craighouse have been accused of presenting “sham” financial data to councillors in order to secure planning permission.

Monday, 6th April 2015, 9:41 am
An artist's impression of the Craighouse development. Picture: comp
An artist's impression of the Craighouse development. Picture: comp

Evidence has emerged suggesting that councillors were given a much lower estimate for the value of historic buildings than the price they are being marketed at, with critics of plans for the former Napier University campus calling the revelations “disgraceful”.

An immediate investigation has now been demanded.

The controversial decision was approved by a nine to six vote of the development management sub-committee in September, with councillors given a detailed financial case for the development that was audited by council officials.

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In it, developers the Craighouse Partnership claimed that turning the existing listed buildings on the Craighouse site into flats would raise £31.9m, returning a profit of just 3.84 per cent. The financial case, compiled in May 2014, argued that this was £5.2m short of the amount necessary to make the project viable, requiring the construction of 81 modern flats and townhouses on parkland around the 16th and 19th century buildings.

However, a document seen by the News suggests that developers believe the true value that could be raised from redeveloping the historic buildings as flats is as much as £38.2m – £6.3m more than the figure revealed to councillors, wiping out the developer’s deficit.

The document, a breakdown of sale values for each element of the projet compiled by Retties, the property firm signed up by the Craighouse Partnership to sell the homes, is dated October 10, 2014 – just over a month after planning permission was granted.

Rosy Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Friends of Craighouse campaign, slammed developers for the discrepancy and said residents would consider seeking a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission.

“This new evidence shows the community was right all along and that the Craighouse financial case was a sham.

“This disgraceful case highlights the desperate need for third party right of appeal to challenge an arrogant and unaccountable system

“This strengthens the community resolve to take this to the next level and get this terrible precedent reversed.”

Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone, who obtained the Retties document, said: “This information is seriously concerning. It seems 37 days after planning permission was granted, the value has increased markedly, to such an extent that no ‘enabling development’, as developers called it, would be needed. It’s important that we get to the bottom of why there’s such a marked difference between the figures.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett added: “At the planning hearing I argued that the Craighouse development could be made viable by restoring the existing properties alone or by a much smaller quantity of new development if sales values were higher and a more modest profit were assumed.

“These papers appear to shows that this argument had real strength. I believe that planning officers need to investigate this apparent anomaly with some urgency.”

The News contacted a spokesman for the Craighouse Partnership and provided details of the document, but the developers declined to comment.