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Caltongate gets planning approval

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October 18 2006

Allan Murray’s scheme for the Mountgrange site behind the Canongate has won planning approval. The masterplan for the £180 million development was approved by the council's planning committee last week despite opposition from local residents and heritage groups.

Objectors believe that Mountgrange's plans to demolish existing 1930s tenement buildings to create a route onto the Canongate a new street will destroy the character of the area.

The controversial decision to accept the plan was made after a tense three-and-a-half hour meeting attended by protesters and supporters including; the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Cockburn Association and Save Our Old Town. A revised version of the plan, incorporating a number of recommendations made by city planning chiefs, will be presented to the committee again for final approval and then Mountgrange will be able to make a detailed planning application. Julie Logan, of Soot, said the group would continue to campaign against the proposals.

The planners insisted that the new Caltongate plan is dependent on the following criteria; that it takes account of the historic character of the Old Town, including narrow, winding streets and an emphasis on pedestrianisation, that it has a social mix with 25 % affordable housing and the hole created into the Canongate should be narrower than the width of a vehicle. Soot and the Cockburn Association have been looking at alternative proposals for the site.

Prior to the vote Trevor Davies, planning committee convener said: "This is one of the most important decisions we will ever make. At the moment, we have a whole dereliction there - it is a hole in the heart of this city and we need to get on with it. We have to look at it as debts and credits. Losing a building is a debt, but there are also credits in the form of economic development and jobs." But he added: "If what comes forward at a future stage is not good enough, we will reject it. This is an assurance to the local community and a warning to the developer."

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