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July 6 2006

Plans to demolish five buildings, two of them listed, within the Edinburgh World Heritage Site in Edinburgh have provoked uproar among heritage and amenity bodies. Mountgrange plc and Allan Murray’s proposed master plan for the disused bus garage in New Street (see Prospect February 2006) is currently the subject of a heated debate in Auld Reekie.
Save Our Old Town (SOOT) has been created by some local residents to fight the scheme (www.EH8.org.uk) and the battle has been fought on the editorial and letters pages of the Evening News. A recent critique of the master plan by Peter Wilson elicited a counter-attack from the Chamber of Commerce.
Mountgrange plans to extend the existing site by acquiring city council-owned properties between the garage and Canongate and building a new road, to be called Parliament Way, which will continue the line of East Market Street and curve up into Canongate. This will involve the demolition of two fully occupied 1930s stone tenements by city architect EJ MacRae, the B-listed Canongate Venture building and the old Sailor’s Ark at the corner of New Street and Canongate.
“Despite the developer’s spin and specious historical justification, it is clear the new road has one primary function – to create a ‘prime’ site for a five-star hotel,” said Jim Johnson of SOOT. “Apparently dazed by this opposition, Mountgrange has oscillated between smooth talking and threats. Rather than argue his case Allan Murray has resorted to labelling the objectors ‘medievalists’,” he added.

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