Monday, 6 January 2014

My Craighouse Healing Project

Craighouse - a fabulous new development - what's not to like?
A fabulous new development - what's not to like?
You know, it's very flattering when people ask for my views as an expert planner and thought leader on developments in Scotland. I was delighted recently to be invited to report on proposals for Craighouse Campus in Edinburgh and I was thrilled by what I saw but troubled by what I read.

Basically this is a situation which is all too common these days. A developer buys land and buildings in good faith from a public sector organisation desperate for cash. He then finds himself pilloried and abused by a bunch of middle class busy-bodies who imagine they have some right to decide on what should be done with the site. The local planning authority encourages the developer to get on with building on the site as this is the new role that planners have. It's called 'enabling development' and it is one of the pillars of the 21st Century Enterprise Economy and a cornerstone of the New Scottish Enlightment. Planning permission will be granted though there may be conditions attached which the developer may ignore if he wishes. This is the nudge-nudge-wink-wink world at the cutting edge of the fabulous property development industry. Some will see this as some sort of Faustian Bargain but it is just reality - live with it!
Craighouse - look at that nice young couple - they are happy!
Look at that nice young couple - they are happy!

Let's look at this development from the expert planner's perspective. First of all this would be a great place to live! There are fantastic views over Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. Stunning! Secondly the architecture of the new development is breathtaking in its boldness and repetition - like an army of soldiers marching totally erect! Their flat roofs provide plenty of opportunities for private sunbathing and parties all year round. Unfortunately there are still some old buildings shown as retained on the site although I would expect these to be accidentaly set on fire as development proceeds. In any case I'm sure that they are full of rats. Of course it would be important to photograph these structures and record them properly before they were demolished. Some of them are in fact listed but this usually doesn't make any difference to sensible proposals for demolition.

I read that local people seem to be protesting about every aspect of this development - from the number of new buildings and their design to the number of trees being cut down and the overall landtake of the development. They obviously haven't heard about the beneficial trickle-down effect of new developments like this and the positive impact they can have on local economies. There is more money for the local authority through Council Tax, more work for local companies, more opportunities for young people to learn a new skill - the list is endless. Of course most of the protestors probably live in houses that were built on green fields many years ago. I just don't understand the selfishness and lack of perspective of these good folk.
Craighouse - lovely and regimented - with plenty of trees
Lovely and regimented - with plenty of trees

But - I'm not going to take sides in this matter as it is only my second post since the New Year and I am still overflowing with goodwill and full of festive cheer. Instead I would recommend that a healing process has to be started through which these shrill voices from the local community can be calmed. You know, people have too much spare time these days - too much time to sit around complaining about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with them. Sometimes it can actually become an illness in which otherwise good people become addicted to complaining. They are described as vexatious litigants. When I see children and dogs being used in protests against developers I wonder what the world is coming to.

I'm happy to have been able to help in this dispute and to bring understanding and tolerance to both sides. Best wishes to all of you and thanks for inviting me to comment.

No comments: