Judge rules controversial hotel in Old Town is legal

Simon Byrom staged a sit-in protest on the empty site on the Cowgate
Simon Byrom staged a sit-in protest on the empty site on the Cowgate
Have your say

A JUDGE has ruled that councillors acted legally when they granted planning permission to a hotel development at a world heritage site.

Lady Wise concluded that Edinburgh City Council acted correctly when it allowed Dreamvale Properties Development Ltd to develop a 225 bedroom motel in the city’s old town.

Community councillor Simon Byrom, who staged a sit in protest against the development, had gone to the Court of Session in the city to argue that the scheme shouldn’t progress.

He and other people who lived nearby believed the proposed initiative would have a negative impact on the nearby Central Library on George IV bridge.

The library - which is a listed building - was opened in 1890 after Scots American tycoon Andrew Carnegie donated a large amount of money towards its construction.

Mr Byrom believes the proposed hotel which is located near to the library would put the future of the learning facility at risk and destroy the unique atmosphere in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Lawyers acting for Mr Byrom argued that councillors didn’t follow correct procedure when they granted permission for the scheme in November 2016.

But Lady Wise disagreed. She concluded that the local authority had acted correctly.

In a written judgement issued yesterday, Lady Wise wrote: “I have no doubt that the petitioner and other residents within the Old Town conservation area are strongly and genuinely opposed to this proposed development.

“However, no errors in the decision making process have been established and the approach taken by the respondent on the basis of the available material cannot be regarded as irrational or perverse.”

Lady Wise’s judgement was published months after Dreamvale obtained a court order from the city’s sheriff court to remove Mr Byrom from the site of the proposed development.

Mr Byrom had been protesting against the scheme by living in a tree 20 feet above the ground. He slept under a leaky tent on wooden platforms which overhang wooden hoardings around the perimeter of the site for a week.

Dreamvale went to court to get him removed from the site. Lawyers acting for the firm argued that they were unable to carry out work and that this had a significant financial impact on the city. They also argued the tent was potentially dangerous and he had no right to be there.

Upon leaving court, Mr Byrom said he disagreed with the court order.

He added: “I really feel quite dejected and disappointed. They said I legally had no right to be there. But I argued morally I had no other choice.

“The land is sacred. It was always the intent to set it aside and protect Andrew Carnegie’s legacy. It should be given back to the people.

“The Old Town community is dying. The idea of chopping down the Tony tree in the highly polluted Cowgate is ridiculous.”

Lawyers acting for Mr Byrom appeared in the Court of Session earlier this year in a bid to gain a ruling that the city council acted incorrectly.

But their bid failed.