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Edinburgh group challenges post-fire regeneration plans

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Organisers of an unofficial competition to produce proposals for the fire-wrecked Cowgate site in Edinburgh have named their winning schemes - even though Malcolm Fraser has already clinched the job.

Ron Gallaway Associates has taken first place in the competition to redesign the historic site in the city's Old Town, which was destroyed by fire last December. However, local practitioner Malcolm Fraser, who is well known to the area's displaced tenants, has already secured the commission.

The future of the site has sparked controversy in Scotland, with calls for greater public involvement. But since the property belongs to a number of private owners, the city council has no remit to get involved with the plans.

Gallaway's rival scheme was this week named winner of the competition, which sought entries from architects, students and the public.

Adrian Welch, who runs the virtual architecture centre Edinburgh Contemporary Architecture, organised the contest, along with designer Dan Frydman. Welch, who insisted the initiative began before Fraser was retained, said the aim was to gauge public opinion and 'spark debate'.

'Before Christmas there seemed to be no movement on the site. People were polarised between the Modernists and the conservationists. We wanted to build up engagement with the public and academics. The public were being shut out to some extent.'

However, Malcolm Fraser said he had already been retained by seven of the eight owners to draw up ideas for the site.

'Given the lamentable record of competition winners actually being built in Edinburgh and the complexity of the site, this seems the most sensible way of ensuring the project gets off the ground.

'It seems to me that the many different owners will not take the competition seriously. They are more interested in getting themselves organised and getting some construction started, ' he added.

But Welch said he was sure the competition would influence the final outcome in Cowgate and could provide a prototype for other inner city sites. 'The story isn't finished yet, ' he said.

The architect winners were Thomas Hamilton of Arcade Architects in second place and Ed Hollis in third. Mark Marshall from the University of Edinburgh came top of the student submissions.

Visit www. southbridge. org. uk to view the winning schemes.

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