Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Independent Republic of the Canongate

My street the houses in the middle have 9 council flats and are to be demolished by developers, currently lying empty!

I know it is probably obscure for most of you but I want to tell you about another blog - the Independent Republic of the Canongate.

The Canongate is the bottom end of the Royal Mile of Edinburgh and it is where I live. Engels referred to it in The Conditions of the the English Working Class (sic) see here

It is also the same street the Scottish Parliament is on. However it has great working class roots and still the majority of it's inhabitants are still working class despite the right to buy now causing most of the council housing to be left to developers, homes of multiple occupancy and holiday flats.

Developers nearly four years ago called Mountgrange (Caltongate) Plc decided at the council's invitation that the Canongate was not "fit for purpose" and needed developed, they put in a Masterplan application to demolish council housing, an old Victorian school, the bus garage, art centre and the Old Sailor's Ark (a drop in centre for chaotic homeless people).............and build luxury apartments, a 5 star hotel, conference centre, a new civic square and luxury office apartments. The locals, conservationists and a mixture of all types have been fighting the developers and council ever since.

Their consultation was a farce, their behaviour has been a scandal and they have at every hurdle managed to convince the stupid councillors and planners that Edinburgh must have this development - smack bang wallop inside a World Heritage Site.

They did not expect the hositility they got from the community and conservation groups - some of us set up Save Our Old Town in order to fight back this nasty development and try and influence it with better planning ideas. It has been an almost daily struggle, with little resources but we are getting there even if it has taken us 4 years!!!!

We are not against developing the area and have done an alternative stratey including building council homes, an art centre, market place, green space, play space - even allotments and composting. But nothing has been taken into consideration.

All the planning applications have gone through and then.....................the credit crunch!!! Everything appears to have stopped! We have complained to UNESCO and the European Union as well as the Standards Commission and the Scottish Government about the whole process from the land sales to the failing to protect the integrity of the Old Town to lack of community consultation. No avail from the latter two but UNESCO are not coming with a delegation in November 2008 and the EU are looking into our claims that there might have been dodgy off market dealings.

Now the architects involved in Caltongate - Allan Murray, Robert Murphy and Malcolm Fraser are planning an anti- hertitage conference when UNESCO are coming - they want the right to build whatever they want and the right to be greedy - to hell with public opinion and the needs of the community.

Anyway just wanted to tell you about our campaign and the blog www.Independentrepublicofthe

How do communities plan their own communities or atleast not be at the beck and call of evil developers?

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