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Allan Murray floats revised Caltongate vision

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Allan Murray Architects has unveiled fresh plans for the redevelopment of Caltongate in Edinburgh

The project – backed by a new South African site owner and developer Artisan – includes homes, hotels, shops and offices.

The new approach comes three years after the site’s former developer Mountgrange collapsed leaving the project on hold.

Allan Murray has worked on the controversial New Street bus station redevelopment since it was first unveiled twelve years ago. Outline planning consent was achieved in 2008 despite concern over the loss of historic buildings.

Now the Edinburgh-based studio proposes retaining the area’s historic Canongate Venture and Old Sailor’s Ark buildings under plans which would see the height and massing of its earlier scheme reduced.

The public have been invited to comment on the plans which are expected to be tweaked in response to feedback. Two detailed planning applications for the revised north and south elements of the scheme are expected to be submitted in the summer.

Artisan managing director Lukas Nakos said: ‘We have the opportunity to create one of Europe’s most exciting and vibrant mixed-use communities which will set an international benchmark for sensitive and innovative development.

‘We feel we now have a proposal which balances ambitious and exciting commercial priorities with a genuine understanding of the area’s community and civic context.

‘This is a long overdue opportunity to revitalise a strategic city centre location between Waverley Station and the Scottish Parliament, whilst being part of the very fabric of the historic heart of the city.

‘The location is the missing piece of the jigsaw which will see the rejuvenation of the Old Town as a vibrant commercial and social quarter of international appeal.’



Peter Wilson, director of the Wood Studio at Edinburgh’s Napier University

I’ve lost count of the number of schemes I’ve seen over the years for this particular site and all have been represented as the essential ‘missing piece of the jigsaw’ that will rejuvenate the Old Town. I’ve seen office developments, housing developments, hotel developments and mixed use developments proposed and then disappear but none so far has managed to resolve the complex access issues that affect this very tight site. In this instance it’s not perhaps best helped by Edinburgh City Council’s plans to close the Canongate itself to vehicles, thereby shifting all service traffic onto the parallel Calton Road, an almost totally residential thoroughfare that is already blighted by commercial vehicles and the almost weekly road closures required by walks/runs/marches /parades on the Royal Mile itself. 

Were this a real European capital, an important site like this would be put out to architectural competition following genuine public consultation and the implementation of mechanisms to ensure funding and political support were actually in place to build the winning design. The economic imperatives for this site have changed so often over the years that you have to ask why, in the current financial climate, the city’s politicians believe this solution is really the best that Edinburgh can hope for. Is urban design in one of the world’s recognised exemplars of urban design now really all about maximising commercial property rates?









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