Letters: EICC Fountainbridge hotel plan must be stopped

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A Labour councillor has spoken out against the Fountainbridge hotel plan. Do you agree with this letter?

On 7 June the council met to discuss an approach from Edinburgh International Conference Centre to allow it to build a ­potentially very large, 400-bed hotel on the Fountainbridge site. The ­information and committee discussions were held in private. This ­followed another private meeting in March.

What a strange way to deal with an application of such significance, ­concerning a site where there has been active and positive engagement ­between local communities and the council, and when the applicant ­requires financial support from the council in the tens of millions – what could be ­going on? Why would ­members allow this secrecy?

When word got out, members of Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative asked me, as chair, to request the ­opportunity to address the committee and I’m grateful to the clerk for allowing this. I was joined by a member of the Tollcross Community Council, who was also presenting objections.

READ MORE: Hotel complex set for go-ahead on EICC doorstep

As we left, I was alerted to the fact that one of the members of the ­committee (Cllr McLellan, Cons) had published an opinion piece in that day’s Evening News supporting the EICC application and denigrating FCI. Curiouser and curiouser.

The part of the site concerned was earmarked for a mix of commercial and office space, with the prospect of providing space suitable for IT start-ups, part of a vision the council has to support the city’s position at the heart of this important growth sector.

This would sit within a site home to the new Boroughmuir High School building, with a substantial amount of housing – mixed tenure and including properties that people can afford to make their homes – along with the new base for Edinburgh Printmakers, bringing a creative focus to the site.

Permission has already been given for a 250+ bedroom hotel. FCI hopes there may be uses reflecting the unique canalside location too – a home for Re-Union, a social enterprise giving hundreds of people access to the canal.

Over recent years the Foutainbridge site has been encircled by apart-hotels, blocks of student housing, and hotels. The power of the Masterplan and the focus of the council was the balance created by a mixed development and at the heart of it, a determination to allow a sustainable local community to grow. What has happened to sweep all that away? Where is the commitment to community engagement? What can we offer people to overcome the cynicism and distrust that drives them away from belief in elected representatives?

This application is ill considered and must be stopped.

Simon Braunholtz, chair, Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative.

READ MORE: John McLellan: Hospitality university could be cash cow for city

SNP are not helping over Tory council cuts

Of course, SNP council leader Adam McVey is correct to highlight the ­impact Tory austerity is having on Edinburgh (News, June 11)).

Their ideological squeeze on public spending combined with their assault on the welfare system makes it harder for Edinburgh to be all it can be.

That, however, is only part of the story. We know that in the five years since 2013-14, funding for day-to-day council funding from the Scottish Government has decreased by 7.1 per cent, but the UK Government only cut the Scottish Government’s revenue budget by 1.8 per cent.

On average across Scotland, the SNP has cut council spending by £148 per person but in Edinburgh the cut has been even bigger – £226 per person.

It is within that context that services in Edinburgh are being cut, charges are rising, projects are ­delayed, services are failing and that people in our Capital will soon be forced to pay to have their garden waste collected. This should anger us all.

Edinburgh’s Labour councillors have responded by spearheading the debate on introducing a modest ‘hotel tax’ to help fund services for visitors and tourists alike. This has massive public support, but the SNP and the Tories continue to oppose giving Edinburgh this power – they are hand-in-glove on holding us back.

This is not the only area where the SNP Government is holding back Edinburgh. On everything from Airbnb to Uber, they simply will not give our Capital the powers to act. The SNP spent its conference in Aberdeen last week spouting the tired old line about being ‘Stronger for Scotland’. I just wish its Edinburgh branch ­office would stand up for our Capital. The first step in doing that must surely be to be honest about who is cutting our budget.

Prof Scott Arthur, Labour Councillor for Colinton\Fairmilehead, City Chambers, Edinburgh.