Tree protester who fought Cowgate hotel landed with £50,000 legal bill

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AN ACTIVIST who camped in a tree in a bid to stop an Old Town hotel development is facing a crippling legal bill after losing his appeal against a court ruling.

Simon Byrom took the city council to the highest civil court in the land in a bid to halt the Cowgate hotel project.

Simon Byrom took the city council to court.

Simon Byrom took the city council to court.

But he says his home is now “on the line” as he expects a legal bill of up to £50,000 following the Court of Session ruling.

“What’s more important than the money is the future of the Old Town and the reputation of the city,” said Mr Byrom, 49.

Mr Byrom said his claims to represent the community and 5,500 people who signed an online petition were given short shrift by the court

“It didn’t go well and I was shown no mercy,” he added. “I was told I was there to represent myself, not others.”

He described assessments that plans would have no impact on the conservation area as “utterly ludicrous” and claimed the Capital’s World Heritage status is ultimately at risk.

“It’s much more than disappointing, it’s potentially devastating,” he added. “The Old Town community is now hanging by a thread - ravaged by the airbnb movement.

“It now means when we’re faced by large planning applications, we simply don’t have the means to resist, be it presence of community or finance.”

Mr Byrom was appealing Judge Lady Wise’s ruling in October that the council acted correctly when it allowed Dreamvale Properties Development Ltd to create a 225-bedroom motel.

Community councillor Mr Byrom, who lives on the corner of Cowgate, staged a sit-in protest against the development in a sycamore tree on the site.

He lived in the tree 20-feet above the ground for a week - sleeping under a leaky tent on platforms which overhung wooden hoardings around the perimeter of the site. Dreamvale went to court to get him removed from the site, claiming they were unable to carry out work which had a significant financial impact on the city.

They also argued the tent was potentially dangerous and he had no right to be there.

Along with neighbours, Mr Byrom argued the plans would have a negative impact on the nearby Central Library on George IV Bridge.

The library opened in 1890 after Scots American tycoon Andrew Carnegie donated a large amount of money towards its construction.

Mr Byrom argued the proposed hotel near the library would put the future of the learning facility at risk and destroy the unique atmosphere in the Old Town.

Lawyers acting for him argued that councillors failed to follow correct procedure when they granted permission for the scheme in November 2016.

But Lady Wise disagreed, concluding that the local authority had acted correctly.

Her judgement read: “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.”

A city council spokesman said: “We note today’s Court of Session ruling.”