Rosy Barnes: Alternative can keep Craighouse safe

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CRAIGHOUSE is stunning and one of the most sensitive sites in Edinburgh.

Over three years, the Craighouse Partnership has submitted a series of unacceptable planning applications for excessive new-build on this beautiful site, putting the listed buildings at risk. Highly critical expert and council reports showed the last application was inaccurate, incomplete and heading for refusal. Thousands of ordinary people, experts and organisations objected to a plan that would have seen this protected site exploited for profit.

Now we have Scheme Three – still demanding excessive amounts of build – more than all the listed buildings put together. Six development sites of up to six storeys, 12 car parks, 300 parking spaces and 90 trees felled on an Area of Great Landscape Value. Approximately 20 children per year will need primary spaces at a school already bursting at the seams. The roads report is concerned the scheme will be dangerous to children and pedestrians.

And will this even save the listed buildings? Worryingly, the Craighouse Partnership demands the right to build three huge apartment blocks without even having to touch the listed buildings. At other Edinburgh developments, new-build proliferates while listed buildings are left to rot. At Quartermile, listed buildings remain untouched years later.

Giving planning permission for excessive new-build does not save listed buildings. Only a development scheme based on profit from the listed buildings can do that.

Craighouse is financially viable. The developers have admitted the 
buildings are profitable (they just want more). Therefore, local people have developed the alternative forward plan.

Working with successful local businesspeople, we’ve identified four options that match each building to their best use – mixed use of hotel and residential; senior living; residential in the listed buildings only; and mixed residential, arts, niche business and community use. The figures have been studied by business and development professionals. All provide good profits.

Further advantages include provision of more long-term jobs and income streams to help with maintenance. The New Craig building had a lucrative wedding business. Uses that maximise such income to bring money into the site, rather taking millions out, provide sustainability to safeguard the buildings. This is not a plan that relies on locals to become full-time volunteers or donations. This is a business plan where professional experts would be engaged.

Research shows hundreds of important sites saved all over the UK by community plans, whereas “enabling developments” have very high rates of failure which is why – according to policy – they should be a last resort.

How can the alternative plan be achieved?

We’re assembling a group of investors to buy the site for the community, with interest from potential investors locally and further afield.

All woodland/green space would go into joint council and community ownership.

The buildings would then be individually sold on to businesses for the identified uses or for small-scale residential conversion.

The advantage of this approach is it is low risk and won’t put the whole site in danger.

This is an exciting opportunity to save this spectacular gem for the city. By saying no to excessive new build by objecting to the Craighouse Partnership’s Scheme and saying yes to the alternative community plan, you’ll be supporting a forward-looking venture that protects the green space, safeguards the listed buildings and will preserve one of the most beautiful places in Edinburgh for generations to come.

• Rosy Barnes is founder of the Friends of Craighouse campaign group