Tuesday22 August 2017

Critics warn Caltongate 'will tear Edinburgh apart'

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£150m development could ‘desecrate’ Scottish capital

Scottish writers, artists and architects have warned that Edinburgh’s £150 million Caltongate scheme will “tear apart the fabric” of the city.

Writers Irvine Welsh, AL Kennedy, Alexander McCall Smith, sculptor Alexander Stoddart and James Simpson, founding partner of heritage practice Simpson & Brown Architects, are among the high-profile Scots who criticised Edinburgh’s planning department in a letter to The Scotsman.

They described the Caltongate scheme, by Allan Murray and Comprehensive Design Architects, as a “massive stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete”. They added it was “completely at odds” with its surroundings.

They also accused South African developer Artisan of being motivated “entirely by short-term financial gain”.

The letter says: “Two hundred years ago the legacy of our ancestors was the New Town of Edinburgh. Unless something is done urgently today’s legacy will be Caltongate. How will our descendants 200 years hence judge us if it goes ahead?

“Government bodies such as Historic Scotland have said nothing. Edinburgh World Heritage has been silenced by council pressure. It is now up to the people of Edinburgh and their supporters to take the lead.

“The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a cityscape of international importance. Not only are they one of the jewels of Scotland and Europe but the tourism they generate produces millions of pounds and sustains thousands of jobs. It seems unthinkable that this legacy should be under threat.”

The letter came after Richard Williams, professor of visual cultures at the University of Edinburgh, also attacked the scheme, saying it risked “desecrating” the city’s world heritage status.

He likened some of Edinburgh’s 1960s architecture to a “trauma on a par with the Second World War”, and said nothing of significance had been built in the city for well over a century.

“In Edinburgh, the New Town represents the high watermark of architectural achievement,” he said. “And, listening in on recent conversations about development, you could easily come away with the impression that nothing of any consequence has happened since. Almost everything has been clouded by a sense of failure or worse.”

Artisan said it had spent 18 months listening to the community and was confident its proposals showed “a genuine understanding of the area’s celebrated community and civic context”.



Readers' comments (3)

  • Sterile monstrosity set in a car park by the looks of it.


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  • A poor rearrangement of the standard developer stereotypes. Surely they could do better.


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  • Perhaps they could place a replica of the Crystal Palace there, Edinburgh loves heritage chic.

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