Welcome to the arcane world of city planning - Kevin Buckle
It wasn’t a great surprise to hear that Edinburgh World Heritage, having been refused funds by Edinburgh Council to help pursue lottery money, were set to walk away from the Tron Kirk, where they currently have a visitor centre and shop.
I was also unaware that the redevelopment of the Ross Bandstand, which I knew had been scaled back and delayed, has now been all but abandoned.
At the same time, legal objections from the developers of the St James Quarter to the IMPACT Centre granted planning by the council have been upheld and surprisingly the council’s failures kept under wraps.
Finally as if this wasn’t enough it would appear the council are to make a decision early next year on whether the hotel developers will be given more time to provide the hotel they were tasked to provide on the Old Royal High School site.
All of these things are, of course, linked in one way or another and highlight that the council reacts very differently to projects depending on whether they have their seal of approval
At the same time, heritage bodies look the other way when it suits them while vociferously objecting to other projects.
Avalanche was based in the Tron Kirk for a while, but we had left by the time all the artists were kicked out by the council, despite having offered a significant rent, so that Edinburgh World Heritage could establish a visitor centre and prepare a lottery fund application.
Given the council accepted a considerably lower rent from EWH, I’m not sure why they needed more funding, and indeed the first thing they did was bring in another operator to run a shop which was allocated a third of the space available.
Understandably the already established artists and small businesses wondered why they weren’t being offered first refusal on the commercial space by EWH.
While the council and heritage bodies appeared to sometimes be on different sides over the Ross Bandstand, these days they speak with one voice with regards to the IMPACT Centre and Old RHS hotel, which is particularly odd given the council commissioned the hotel.
What is particularly strange is that this one voice supported a concrete building that was far too high in the IMPACT centre and while opposing the hotel, supports a music school that Reporters decided in their judgement of the hotel’s appeal, was more intrusive to the fabric of the school than the hotel.
Never has it been clearer that the council operates a two-tier planning system in which some pet projects appear to be able to do no wrong, while other more commercial projects are held to a different set of standards.
While the Reporters acknowledged that the hotel’s plans would “save” the school, the future of The Tron remains uncertain.