The proposed commercial development of the huge but sensitive Caltongate site in Edinburgh’s Old Town, already under challenge as incompatible with the city’s World Heritage Site status, is now also under attack by way of European Union competition and public procurement rules.
Mr David Black, whose previous forays in this area include initiating the EU investigation of the Scottish Parliament procurement, has complained to the European Commission that Edinburgh Council supplied part of the site to the developer Mountgrange without first putting it on the open market, and that Jim Lowrie, the council’s planning convener, commented on the scheme prematurely in the local media (although Mr Lowrie has been cleared of the latter allegation by the Standards Commission for Scotland).
The Commission ruled on 13 August 2008 that Mr Black’s complaints were admissible, and investigation has now begun. Commission officials will thus join UNESCO investigators looking at the World Heritage Site question. UNESCO will begin its work in November, and according to the BBC the city council has been warned not to permit any further development until that task is complete.
The Caltongate development will include a five-star hotel, a conference centre, and shops, offices and homes. The site is certainly a massive one, as the photo below shows.
The site is also next door to the Council’s new HQ, which itself scarcely inspires enthusiasm amongst aficionados of the Old Town’s admittedly variegated charms.
For those in search of more detail, Scots Law News investigations have revealed a Caltongate Information Office in St Mary’s Street, open three days a week from 10 until 4:
There is also a website promising a development which “changes the entire dynamic of a modern city”. For other views see the websites of the Canongate Community Forum, the Cockburn Association, and the Edinburgh Old Town Association. Keep up to date as well with the Independent Republic of the Canongate blog. But maybe the credit crunch, which seems to be doing for the Scottish construction industry big-time at the moment, will have the last word on all this.