Treasures: The Blaeu Atlas of Scotland
Thu, 1 Feb 2024 17:30 - 18:30 GMT
In 1654, Scotland became one of the best mapped countries in the world
We can see no evidence of a reasonable attempt to retain listed buildings or unlisted buildings of historic interest
We can see no evidence of a reasonable attempt to retain listed buildings or unlisted buildings of historic interest
The Cockburn has registered its objection to this project.
We have had the opportunity to visit this development site and have considered the current planning application. The proposal brings several unused or under used buildings back into productive use, including the former Crawfords Tearoom. It recreates several active frontages at street level. These we see are positive aspects of this proposals.
However, whilst we acknowledge that the listed structures involved in this redevelopment have been greatly altered over the years, often unsympathetically it remains the case that the level of intervention and downtakings related to the listed buildings is considerable. The nature of much of the works appear to us as examples of ‘facadism’ where little consideration has been given to a more reparative approach to historic building conservation. This requires proactive intervention by the planning authority and other stakeholders to not just safeguard the city’s historic architectural heritage but to be more interventive in proposals for reusing and repurposing listed buildings as hotels or similar developments in Edinburgh at this time. The application of section 14 and 59 of the Planning (listed buildings and Conservation)(Scotland) Act requiring special regard into proposals such as these is consideration. Demolition of a listed building in a World Heritage Site is one of these, and we are disappointed with Historic Environment Scotland’s line that it is not a development of national significance.
The project. as it stands, requires the demolition of a much-altered listed structure on Rose Street and the unlisted remains of an old dairy, both linking back to the First New Town. It must be acknowledged that this section of Rose Street has been radically altered over the years and retains little of its original urban form. Nevertheless, the demolition of a listed building in a Conservation Area, if approved, would be a significant departure for policy. The removal of the unlisted dairy remains would represent the loss of yet another remnant of a bygone age in Edinburgh’s history. A palimpsest of Edinburgh’s heritage that could never be recovered by future generations.
The hotel, retail space and tearoom created by this development will have a significant and varied service requirement in addition to the obvious need to manage the arrival and departure of hotel guests by various modes across a major north-south arterial route which also carries the proposed Meadows to George Street cycleway. We do not find that these entirely predictable impacts are as comprehensively addressed as we would expect in applications of this nature and this application is no exception. A full transport impact assessment, if prepared, appears not to have been loaded onto the planning portal. The main service access is via Rose Street, which is pedestrianised, and the City of Edinburgh Council is moving to discourage vehicular traffic in the city centre and encourage active travel routes and modes. The frequency of movements for hotels in terms of customers and deliveries is significantly higher than other uses, with the potential for significant conflict with other users. We are not convinced that this has been adequately addressed.
In summary, we can see no evidence of a reasonable attempt to retain listed buildings or unlisted buildings that make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. Pervious poor alterations to historic fabric should not be used as precedent for potentially greater damage.
There are elements of this scheme which we support such as the reuse of the former Tearooms, and the use of underutilised upper floors for hotel use. We also support the retention of active frontages on Hanover Street and Princes Street. Servicing and access requirements need a full review with clear commitments to cause no interruption with movement in this congested and very busy part of the city.
We appreciate the difficulty in developing this site and the much-altered urban form of Rose Street. However, the onus if firmly on the developer to justify the level of demolitions, removals and interventions proposed and that an alternative approach to the redevelopment of the site is not a viable option.
The Cockburn Association would like to object to this proposal to demolish the former Royal Blind Asylum and erect a Purpose-built Student accommodation development in its place.
We have objected separately to the Conservation Area Consent application, but as explained in that, we expand on the policy reasons for objection to demolition here.
Firstly, regarding the PBSA scheme itself, the proposals offer little in the way of quality architectural expression. The horizontal emphasis of the fenestration is in stark contrast to the depth and vertically of the Victorian buildings opposite, and the attempt to create a “top-middle-and-bottom” in elevational treatment is weak, particularly so with upper floor’s change in material to metal cladding, which does not provide a suitable articulation of a roofscape.
The cellular nature of the proposals and complete dominance of studio accommodations offers little in the resilience and futureproofing, should there be a decline in the market for this type of accommodation. We strongly advocate a move away from such layouts to a cluster flat arrangement, with the ability of building to revert to more traditional flatted accommodation if necessary.
The proposals offer little in the way of effective green or open space, with the majority taken up by circulation space or rather meaningless pockets of planting, which will contribute little to amenity or biodiversity.
As such, the Cockburn advises that the proposals do not met the tests of Local Development Plan Policy ENV 6 on the grounds that the scheme does not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area; it results in the loss of “open-ness” with the loss of space that is currently undeveloped, reinforcing the impact to the character of the area; and finally, does not demonstrate high standards of design.
We also have some concerns with amenity impacts that will result from the intensification of use of this site as a PBSA scheme. This is especially the case for those tenements on Bruntsfield Place which back onto the site. The pattern of use will be sufficiently different with increased activity where the cycle store and small garden spaces are located.
Conservation Area Impact
As we indicated in our objection to the related Conservation Area Consent application, the proposals do not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of this conservation due to the significant impact on the single aspect of the street which strongly characterises the crescent. The Marchmont, Meadows and Bruntsfield Conservation Area Character Appraisal notes in that the Bruntsfield area’s essential character (which includes Gillespie Crescent) is Bruntsfield Place and its tenements; a rectangular grid with interesting loops and culs-de-sac; and a number of interesting views amongst other characteristics. The view south along Gillespie Crescent to Pilkington’s Bruntsfield Barclay church is one of these.
Local Development Plan policy Env 5 Conservation Areas – Demolition of Buildings states, “Proposals for the demolition of an unlisted building within a conservation area but which is considered to make a positive contribution to the character of the area will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and after taking into account the considerations set out in Policy Env 2 above [our emphasis]. Policy Env 2 Listed Buildings – Demolition sets out three tests for demolition, which are to be applied in this instance as the building provides a positive contribution to the character of the Conservation Area, which we set out below. Proposals for the total or substantial demolition of a listed building will only be supported in exceptional circumstances, taking into account:
a) the condition of the building and the cost of repairing and maintaining it in relation to its importance and to the value to be derived from its continued use
b) the adequacy of efforts to retain the building in, or adapt it to, a use that will safeguard its future, including its marketing at a price reflecting its location and condition to potential restoring purchasers for a reasonable period.
c) the merits of alternative proposals for the site and whether the public benefits to be derived from allowing demolition to outweigh the loss.
It is our view that the former Royal Blind Asylum Offices makes a positive contribution to the character of the Conservation Area, which we note is also the position of Historic Environment Scotland in its advice to the planning authority. The low-lying nature of the building helps emphasis the single aspect of Gillespie Crescent, a particular feature of this part of the area. The setback of the Viewforth Housing Association flats from the crescent respects this characteristic whereas the current proposals affect the southern part of the crescent in a negative manner – ie shifting the emphasis from a single to dual aspect street. This is particular acute on views south towards Barclay Bruntsfield church. The Heritage Statement submitted with the application illustrates very appropriately that Gilliespie’s Hospital/Royal Blind Asylum buildings countered the hard urban edge of the Crescent with a “buildings in landscape” approach, set back from the street so thereby creating a soft urban edge. The proposals undermine this characteristic.
No exceptional circumstances have been presented by the developers to justify demolition. We accept that an economic case for redevelopment can be made, but this does not amount to exceptional reasons. We also accept that there are remedial repairs required to the existing building but do not believe that these justify demolition. In addition, there is no evidence that adequate effort to secure a new use for the building or other efforts to safeguard its future has been made. For the avoidance of doubt, we do not accept that a PBSA here could be considered a public benefit per se.
The Cockburn Association has considered the development fully. We feel that the proposals to redevelopment this site fail policies ENV6 and ENV2 respectively. For these reasons along, the application should be refused.
We also believe that the replacement PBSA block is significantly deficient in suitable architectural expression and quality and does not represent a suitable replacement building in this part of the Conservation Area. It does harm and damage to it, thereby failing the statutory obligations of section 64 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas)(Scotland) Act 1997.
The Cockburn Association has objected to this proposed demolition which is clearly contrary to policy.
Our further comments in respect of 23/06623/FUL (Demolition of existing building and erection of purpose-built student accommodation and associated amenity space, landscaping, and infrastructure. 50 Gillespie Crescent Edinburgh EH10 4JB ) are also relevant to this application
We do not support his application.
We note that an application for residential apartments , including affordable apartments, has already been approved for this site. We see no reason why the approved development should not be progressed. The approved development would offer a range of residential types, including affordable housing, which are entirely suitable for the site and location and would support the need for more residential accommodation in Edinburgh outlined in the recently declared ‘Housing Emergency’.
This proposal appears to be part of an ongoing trend to substitute approved residential developments with student accommodation of a broadly similar design to that already approved.
We have taken time to understand the current proposals for this difficult, restricted and complex site and we support this application.
We do not believe that this site is suitable for full-time residential accommodation because of unavoidable restrictions in terms of aspect, amenity, greenspace and the nature of the listed structure.
However, with these restriction in mind we consider that the relatively small student student development which is being proposed makes a good use of the site.
The listed structure which will be used for this development is clearly in a very poor and precarious condition. This development will conserve/rebuild much of the remaining external walls. We accept that the modern set-backs proposed for the front facade are required to facilitate the well-being and privacy of future student residents.
We note that the developer has a ‘Phase 2’ project under development on an adjoining site. We would encourage this be brought forward as soon as possible. The current proposal and the future ‘Phase 2’ project taken together are an example of successful site masterplanning on a smaller scale – the benefits are the development of both sites to the locality being greater than the individual elements in isolation.
We recognize that design team have made significant changes to earlier iterations of the design proposed for this site in consultation with city planners.
However, we remain unconvinced that this scheme does not have the potential to negatively impact on the amenity of existing neighbours while adding only limited additional amenity benefits to the surrounding area.
We also consider that the location is too remote from any educational campus, particularly in the context of the recently declared ‘Housing Emergency’ and given the local demand for permanent residential housing.
Specific consideration should be given to the current concentration of existing or approved student developments in the area, to the balance of of PBSA and non-PBSA accommodation in the proposed development, to the undesirable prevalence of studio flats in the design and to the the lack of accessible accommodation, and accessible parking in the design.