16 January 2014

The objection to end all objections

After my rather derivative post yesterday, a friend, who is both local to the area and well-informed, contacted me, and offered to let me post his response here.  Enjoy!

I object to the proposed Craighouse Development (12/04007/FUL) on the following grounds:

  1.  It is contrary to the spatial strategy set out in Strategic Development Plan for the regional core, which directs development towards the four Strategic Development Areas within Edinburgh.
  2. It is contrary to Policy 1B of the Strategic Development Plan, as the new build proposals would have significant adverse impacts on several A listed buildings, due to their proposed location, height, massing and materials used.  These proposals would have an adverse impact on a highly visible setting, which can be seen from many parts of Edinburgh.
  3.   It is contrary to Policy 1B of the Strategic Development Plan as the proposals do NOT have regard to the need to improve the quality of life in local communities by enhancing the natural and built environment.  The proposals will reduce available open space, negatively impact on a site of architectural and historic value and make the surrounding area less, rather than more, attractive.
  4. It is contrary to policy 1B of the Strategic Development Plan as the proposed new build elements are not a high quality design and there is no indication that there will be use of sustainable building materials.
  5.   It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Des 1 which states “Planning permission will not be granted for poor quality or inappropriate design or for proposals that would be damaging to the character or appearance of the area around it, particularly where this has a special importance.”  The new build proposals would be damaging to the character of the surrounding area, which is of special importance (given the presence of A listed buildings and conservation area status) due to their height, massing, location and proposed materials.
  6. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Des 10 which states that “Proposals for buildings which rise above the building height prevailing generally in the surrounding area will only be permitted where… there would be no adverse impact on important views of landmark buildings, the historic skyline, landscape features in the urban area or the landscape setting of the city, including the Firth of Forth.”  The proposed new build development would have an adverse impact on views to and from Craiglockhart Hill, as the elevated position means the buildings would be highly visible and exceed the height of all other nearby residential buildings.
  7. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local plan policy Env3 as the proposals are detrimental to the appearance and character of several listed buildings.
  8. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Env6, as the proposals will have a negative impact on the appearance and character of a conservation area.
  9. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Env 11, which states “Planning permission will not be granted for development which would damage or detract from the overall character and appearance of the Areas of Great Landscape Value shown on the Proposals Map, prominent ridges, or other important topographical or landscape features.”.  The proposed development clearly detracts from the character and appearance of an area of great landscape value.
  10. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan Env12, as it has a negative impact on trees within a conservation area which the proposed re-planting proposals do not ameliorate, particularly in the short to medium term as mature trees are being replaced by far smaller plants.
  11. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Env15, as it will have a detrimental impact on the flora, fauna and landscape of a local nature reserve.
  12. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Env16, as the proposals may have a negative impact on nesting birds, badgers and bats.
  13. It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan policy Os 1, as the proposals involve the loss of open space with no significant benefits.

A key argument of the developer is that permission should be granted for the proposed development to secure the future of the listed buildings on the site, e.g. paragraph 4.36 of the developer’s planning statement indicates that “Six of the seven listed buildings on the application site are now on the Buildings at Risk Register and it is therefore essential that their future is safeguarded through the application proposals.”  This is a false argument. 

The buildings only entered the Buildings at Risk Register during June 2012, after the developer took ownership of the site.  It is the developer that has placed these buildings at risk.  It is also worth noting that the buildings are included in the register “due to ongoing vacancy and lack of identified new use”, rather than any fundamental risk to the deterioration of the fabric of the buildings.

While the long term future of the existing listed buildings is dependent on re-development, there is no reason why that future should be dependent on the current poorly thought out proposals.

The developer has also argued that the new build elements of the proposals are required as “enabling development”.  Enabling Development is not defined in Scottish planning policy, however the English Heritage policy is generally used in Scotland – which is:

“Enabling development that would secure the future of a significant place, but contravene other planning policy objectives, should be unacceptable unless:

a it will not materially harm the heritage values of the place or its setting
b it avoids detrimental fragmentation of management of the place
c it will secure the long-term future of the place and, where applicable, its continued use for a sympathetic purpose
d it is necessary to resolve problems arising from the inherent needs of the place, rather than the circumstances of the present owner, or the purchase price paid
e sufficient subsidy is not available from any other source
f it is demonstrated that the amount of enabling development is the minimum necessary to secure the future of the place, and that its form minimises harm to other public interests
g the public benefit of securing the future of the significant place through such enabling development decisively outweighs the disbenefits of breaching other public policies.”
The new build elements of the proposed development are contrary to this policy on several counts:

  1. The new build proposals will harm the heritage value of the site.
  2. The new build proposals exist to increase the profitability of the site for the current owner rather than benefit a site of significant architectural, heritage and landscape value
  3.   The new build proposals are not the minimum level of new development necessary to secure the future of the site.
Developer’s Planning Statement

The developer’s Planning Statement sets out to prove that the proposed development is in accord with the development plan and, where this is not the case, there are material considerations which outweigh the policies and proposals in the development plan. 

Hopefully, the detailed objections above are enough to refute the claims made by the developers that the proposed development complies with the development plan.  The following section questions the heroic assumptions made by the developers with regards material considerations.

Paragraph 25 of the Scottish Planning Policy states that “material considerations should be related to the use and development of land”.  Clearly, the Scottish Government’s 2012-13 Programme for Government and Historic Scotland’s Corporate Plan do not meet this criteria and these document should be disregarded as material considerations.

The policies and proposals set out in the Strategic Development Plan and Edinburgh City Local Plan are already in accordance with the requirements of the National Planning Framework for Scotland 2, the Scottish Planning Policy and the Scottish Historic Environment Policy.  The national policies highlighted by the developers have been effectively incorporated into the development plan policies I have highlighted above and there is nothing new in the points raised under these headings that aren’t already covered in the development plan policies.

The English Heritage policy on enabling development is discussed above, it is clear that the new build elements of the proposals do not meet the definition of enabling development.

The Craiglockhart Hills Conservation Area Character Statement could not be clearer about the importance of the Craighouse site, stating:

“Views to the Hills from Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill and Edinburgh Castle are also spectacular, in particular to Easter Craiglockhart Hill on which high quality Victorian buildings are set against a predominantly wooded hill, the woodlands emphasising the visual prominence of the site over the local surrounding area.”
It is clear that the new build development proposals would have a significant detrimental impact on these spectacular views.  The Character Appraisal goes on to stay the following about the Craighouse site:

“The buildings form a homogeneous group round the old mansion, as they are closely related in design, layout and materials. This character has remained largely unchanged since the late 19th century. The conversion of the site by Napier University has maintained the essential historic and architectural character, and conserved and enhanced the surrounding landscape.”
Again, the new build proposals could only have a negative impact on the architectural character of this unique site.

The proposals do not meet the definition of enabling development or enhance the character of the conservation area and cannot be seen to meet the policies set out in PAN71 and PAN65 as claimed by the developer.

In summary:

I object to the proposed Craighouse development for the following reasons:

  1.  It is contrary to Strategic Development Plan Policies.
  2.    It is contrary to Edinburgh City Local Plan Policies
  3. There are no material considerations which indicate that the development should be approved contrary to the numerous development plan policies which require its refusal                                                      

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