UN to probe new plan for Caltongate

The Caltongate site
The Caltongate site
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Controversial plans for a development at Caltongate are to be examined by the United Nations over fears they could jeopardise the city’s World Heritage Site status.

The £300 million proposals have been described as “ugly and unsympathetic” to the area.

Developed by a South African-led consortium, the new plans are similar to those that prompted Unesco to order the team behind them to re-examine their bid.

The issue was never resolved because the developer, Mountgrange, went out of business.

Now heritage watchdogs are preparing a new case to go to Unesco to prevent the city losing its World Heritage status, it was reported today.

Unesco investigators warned previously that “to avoid the development having an impact on the outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity of the World Heritage property” developers should carry our a total re-design.

Artisan Real Estate Investors plans to build a 195,000sq ft, five-star hotel with 211 bedrooms, an 18,000sq ft conference centre, around 160,000sq ft of office space, 30 new shops and cafes and 165 new homes.

Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, the city’s civic heritage body, said the group would have a meeting with Edinburgh World Heritage, the charity charged with monitoring the site.

Ms Williams is reported as saying: “There are growing concerns about this development and the damage it will do to the World Heritage status. It is a total intrusion. It is an ugly and unsympathetic development and there will not be a shortage of people who will step up on this issue.”

Detailed plans are due to be lodged with the council within weeks.

Edinburgh World Heritage Committee said that it was unable to comment publicly until then.

David Black of the Historic Buildings Trust has also contacted Unesco, warning Edinburgh could suffer the same fate as the German city Dresden, which was deleted from Unesco’s list in 2009 because of the building of a four-bridge lane in the city.

He said: “This [plan] is delivering the type of corporate blandness which would fit into Milton Keynes or East Kilbride but it is not right for the heart of the World Heritage Site. If Edinburgh was to lose its World Heritage Site status because of this it would have a dreadful impact on Scotland internationally.

“It would be a mark of shame. Dresden lost its status over much less.”

A spokesman for Artisan Real Estate Investors said: “We will shortly be developing detailed designs based on existing mixed-use consents, which were approved in 2008 by the City of Edinburgh Council.

“We are fully aware of the many issues that have surrounded the site and will work closely with the council, consulting with a wide range of local stakeholders and community interests, to ensure our development will do justice to its spectacular and historic setting.”