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Edinburgh City Council investigated over Caltongate


The European Commission is investigating whether Edinburgh City Council broke procurement rules on its controversial Caltongate development

The local authority’s decision to privately sell the £5 million patch of land to developer Mountgrange Capital broke EU competition laws, according to claims by David Black, an architectural historian who contacted the commission.

A letter from the European Commission to Black said: ‘the Commission took the view that the EU public procurement rules […] have been infringed.’ (Read the full letter)

Alan Murray Architects’ controversial scheme for the site floundered last year after Mountgrange went into liquidation leaving the site flattened and behind hoardings.

Edinburgh was poised last month to appoint a new development partner but could now see further delay in the development of the site.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh City said: ‘The council has always paid due regard to its legal obligations but recognises the European Commission’s right to investigate this matter and is currently preparing a response.

‘With the site currently in the hands of administrators, the council fully expect to enter into a new agreement once a preferred bidder has been announced.’

Alan Murray's Caltongate scheme

Source: Alan Murray

Alan Murray’s Caltongate scheme

George Kerevan, Scottish Nationalist Party candidate for Edinburgh East said: ‘I believe the European Commission intervention allows everyone the chance to rethink this scheme.

‘The original Mountgrange proposal was out of grossly character with the Old Town and would have ripped the heart out of the local community.  Edinburgh, as a World Heritage Centre, deserves a lot better.’

Last month ANTA Architecture mooted an alternative scheme for the site - a proposal which Malcolm Fraser described as: ‘A Hollywood vision for a Scotland that doesn’t exist.’

Previous story (AJ 22.3.10)

ANTA moots alternative for abandoned Caltongate site

[FIRST LOOK] ANTA has drawn up an alternative scheme for a stalled £300 million development in Edinburgh formerly being designed by Allan Murray, RHWL, Malcolm Fraser and Zone Architects

Lachie Stewart of local practice ANTA described his ‘guerrilla’ proposals for the contentious Caltongate scheme as a ‘change of gear’ from what was proposed for the key city centre area. He said ‘We’ve been playing with the idea of arcades and making a system based on a much more vertical composition of architectural elements.’

‘Although this is an independent proposal, we are willing to work together with any partners involved for the most appropriate solution for the site.’

In the coming weeks the City of Edinburgh Council will announce a development partner for the contentious 3.5ha city-centre site, currently flattened and behind hoardings.

Allied London, British Land and Grosvenor are among developers thought to be bidding for the scheme.

The previous developers of Caltongate, Mountgrange Capital, plunged into administration last March (2009).

Their scheme was masterplanned by Allan Murray Architects; with buildings designed by Allan Murray with CDA, RHWL with Page\Park, Malcolm Fraser and Zone Architects (pictured below).

However Malcolm Fraser hit back, describing the ANTA scheme as: ‘A Hollywood vision for a Scotland that doesn’t exist.’


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Readers' comments (6)

  • While the site plan might be more acceptable than the previous one, less monolithic, with its recreation of closes, and no demolitions of listed buildings, does Edinburgh really need its own version of Poundbury?

    Possibly a combination of this with good architecture of our time is the answer. Perhaps Malcolm Fraser and ANTA could get together...

    The situation in Edinburgh is no longer boom, and the hugely disliked Moungrange get rich quick scheme for a five star hotel, massive conference centre and offices is not needed, while more housing, particularly for families, and community facilities, are. Edinburgh's World Heritage Site needs to remain a living community.

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  • Not all the site is flattened, the listed Canongate Venture, the listed Sailor's Ark, and the tenements on the Canongate (all in an Oustanding Conservation Area) are still standing. What has been demolished is the bus garage. The UNESCO mission was critical of the proposed demolitions, and said they should not go ahead, and that there should be a certain amount of redesign of the site to retain views and the listed buildings.

    Malcolm Fraser has also spoken out in public against the demolition of the listed Canongate Venture, a handsome, sound former school, which City of Edinburgh Council was to sell to Mountgrange for demolition, and said it should be retained and re-used. Far more sustainable than demolition.

    Time to abandon the Mountgrange Masterplan, and think again.

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  • Its not April 1st, is it?

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  • Any scheme for the site should, under international agreements, be refered to UNESCO. It was critical of the Bath Southgate scheme, and said that in future, 'pastiche' should be abandoned in favour of 'integrated contemporary architecture'.

    The Mountgrange Allan Murray scheme was bad, with its demolitions of listed buildings, and this needs rethinking also. However, at least someone is attempting to raise some discussion about a way forward.

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  • Very cheering news, for those who thought all along there was something not quite right about the relationship between the CEC and Mountgrange... so much about the entire scheme had a whiff of fish about it.


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  • Can Allan Murray Architects do anything right?!

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