Last year, councillors unanimously rejected proposals to knock down Earthy at Canonmills following a lengthy community campaign.
But yesterday the Scottish Government announced it had granted an appeal by landowner Glovart Holdings Ltd – giving the company permission to bulldoze the low-rise buildings at 1-6 Canonmills Bridge and push on with a new development.
Residents blasted the decision as “undemocratic” and insisted they were “gutted, devastated and in shock” but vowed to continue their fight.
And they hit out at the planning reporter’s assessment that the current buildings were “peripheral to the Inverleith Conservation Area” and “atypical” of the district’s character.
Campaigner Jan Anderson said: “In some ways it’s the quirky, different buildings that make an area.”
Councillors granted planning permission for two restaurants, three flats and six townhouses at Canonmills Bridge in 2013, but a separate application to knock down the existing buildings to make way for the scheme was not lodged until early last year.
At a hearing in August, city chiefs took note of the high level of objections and appeared to go back on their earlier decision by unanimously rejecting demolition.
But in a report released yesterday, Scottish Government planning reporter Frances McChlery overthrew this.
She said the building was “clearly valued by the local community”, but added the “intrinsic value of the building itself to the special interest of the conservation area” was not enough to prevent it being knocked down.
She said the central question was “the importance of the building to the conservation area”, with the “appropriateness” of the new development irrelevant as it had already been given the go-ahead.
Marion Williams, director of conservation group the Cockburn Association, said: “Yet again we are seeing local democracy overruled by the Scottish Government. Increasingly, you have to question what the point of a local planning authority is if they are not the ones who take the decision.
“The only redress now is to go to the Court of Session, and nobody has that kind of money. And [any appeal] can only be on a legal point.”