University comes under fire for role in Craighouse plans

ANGRY campaigners have called on Edinburgh Napier University to reveal its financial interest in plans for its former Craighouse campus.

By David O’Leary
Friday, 4th May 2012, 1:00 pm

The university is a named partner in the site’s development consortium, The Craighouse Partnership, and is also involved in the planning application process for more than 100 new homes on the site.

The Friends of Craighouse (FOC) group, which opposes the plans, has now demanded answers from university principal Dame Joan Stringer over what Napier stands to gain from the development.

They said Napier’s “silence was deafening”, while the university insisted it would only make details public “at the appropriate time”.

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An eight-page letter has been sent to Dame Joan after 5000 people signed a petition fighting the development planned by the consortium, which also includes Mountgrange Investment and Sundial Properties.

FOC spokeswoman Rosy Barnes said: “It’s a disgrace. The consortium are trying to frighten people but this is little short of blackmail. The owners are legally obliged to look after this site. There were five other bids for Craighouse with financially viable plans. The question is why has Napier chosen to sell this historic site to a consortium prepared to threaten the public – and the site – in this way over plans that were wildly unacceptable from the outset.”

She added: “The university state that their role in the consortium is to ensure appropriate development, but when asked to make clear what this entails they refuse. Their silence is deafening.”

Anger has steadily grown against The Craighouse Partnership in recent weeks after plans showing 116 homes on the site, rather than the original 110, were revealed.

Heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association has also stepped up the pressure on the consortium. In a letter to Sundial Properties chair, Willie Gray Muir, the watchdog’s director, Marion Williams wrote: “While we appreciate the City of Edinburgh Council had marked the south of the campus for development in 1992, subsequent designations as Open Space and an Area of Great Landscape Value should now predicate against development and the pending Special Landscape Area designation reinforces this. We would be likely to oppose such development were it to be submitted for planning permission.”

Edinburgh Napier confirmed it “retains a financial interest in the site” but refused to give details.

A spokesman said: “We feel that this will help to ensure that whatever development takes place is felt to be appropriate by ourselves, though the planners from the city council will ultimately have the final say.

“We remain actively engaged with The Craighouse Partnership and will continue to share our comments about the plans at the appropriate time.”