I went today to the developer's exhibition showing their proposals for the old Napier University Craighouse campus development. I was relieved that it looks as though it isn't going to be anywhere near as bad as I had been lead to expect. (You can read my concerns here).
New build housing will cover 4% of the site, this is 4% too much, but it's much less than I had been lead to believe. The woodlands will thankfully not be built on and public access to these woodlands will be maintained (or are the developers here making a promise they won't be able to keep?). Car parking will be mostly restricted to the existing car parks or will be hidden away, in some cases underneath the housing. There are likely to be fewer cars once the site becomes housing, compared to how many were there when it was a University.
A real area of controversy is that some of the housing will be built on the old orchard. The representatives of the developers today said to me that all the trees in the orchard are either dead or very nearly so and that it isn't really an orchard any more. I'm not sure that that would be true, old and in fact dead trees have a real ecological value. Having said that, looking at the plans the orchard is at the edge of the site and having housing there is less intrusive than it would be if it were built right across the open space. Also the developers are going to plant a new orchard, though of course those trees will take years to reach maturity.
The other real issue is that the entire site is designated in the Edinburgh City Local Plan as Open Space and/or Area of Great Landscape value, and therefore any new-build on the site is contrary to the Local Plan. If the local council gives planning permission for this development, it sets a dangerous precedent for future developments on our open spaces.
In an ideal world certainly, the development would be restricted to renovating and converting the existing historical buildings. So far however, no-one has come up with a financially feasible way to do this. Given that we live in an imperfect world, perhaps the current proposals are the best we can hope for? Or do we want to wait for a perfect proposal, which risks in the meantime allowing all the historical buildings to fall into decay such that they can then never be refurbished?
If you're concerned about the proposals, please go along to the exhibition between 10-4 tomorrow at Old Craig on the campus site. Have a good look at the plans and ask the developers some questions. Get involved and have your say!