Dear Supporters of the petition “No Confidence in the City of Edinburgh Planning Department”,

A final reminder of the emergency public meeting to discuss the matter of the India Buildings and its major impact on the City in the wider context of speculative ‘development’ putting the reputation of Edinburgh and her World Heritage status at serious risk:

Venue: Grassmarket Community Project – 86 Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QA

Date: Thusday 13th October 2016

Time: 7 – 9pm

Please come if you can to show support, learn more and contribute to the meeting, and do please share the “Let There Be Light” petition with others who may not yet have signed:

and the “No Confidence” petition:


Thank You for your continuing support.


Yours for the Love of Edina,


Simon Byrom
For those with time and inclination the latest details of this scandalous debacle are:
The local community consider the City of Edinburgh’s Council’s planning report to the Development Management Sub-Committee in relation to the proposed India Buildings hotel application to have been significantly flawed in:


  • withholding key information subsequently obtained through FOI requests which would have undoubtedly affected the outcome if the public had faith in the process
  • presenting insufficient, misleading and contradictory information
  • not adequately addressing the many issues of objection.


As a major development with considerable implications that will have, contrary to the view of the planning report, a massive impact on both the local community of the integrity of the Old Town Conservation Area and World Heritage Site, in which the local authority has a significant financial interest, this application deserves the highest scrutiny and certainly merits being of “national significance”.

A ‘conflict of interest’ clearly exists and furthermore disposal of significant public assets without any public consultation as to alternative options represents a failure of the Council to honour its coalition promise, having stated that

We… need to recognise that there has been a breakdown in trust between the residents of Edinburgh and their elected representatives on the Council. That relationship needs to be repaired… this new contract with the capital marks a fresh start, with a Council willing to listen to local people and work together with local communities… A council where co-operation, fairness, accountability and responsibility really matter. The City will be able to judge the Council against this promise

Given how sensitive and important the Old Town of Edinburgh is, this matter is of such importance it has the potential to irreparably damage the reputation of Edinburgh and cost the City its highest accolade, the World Heritage status.

Having betrayed Citizens and consistently broken election pledges, the integrity of the Council, and indeed other complicit public bodies such as Historic Environment Scotland and the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, who contend that the proposals do not raise issues of national significance”, and thatthe overall impact of the development on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site remains broadly neutral”, is fundamentally in question.

The consistent favour shown to private speculative interests over the primary duty of care in acting solely in the public interest, as defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, represents an explicit dereliction of duty, revealing that crippling debt, precipitated by maladministration and the imposition of ‘austerity’, has rendered local government dysfunctional and disgraced.

In consideration of the finer details:

ICOMOS‐UK, the UN body tasked with overseeing the care of World Heritage, considered that the proposed India Buildings hotel is one of seven developments it hasserious concernsabout and concluded that:

…evidence of the potentially negative impacts of cumulative new developments is becoming increasingly apparent. Opinions seem to suggest that too few have reached a level of distinction appropriate for such a distinguished city, and even fewer have contributed in beneficial ways to enhancing the distinctiveness of the World Heritage site. Whilst no objective study exists of the impacts or likely impacts on Outstanding Universal Value, the widespread expressions of concern which have been made known to ICOMOS‐UK convince us that a serious investigation into the cause is merited.

UNESCO holds the government ultimately responsible for the care of World Heritage and warns there is an “ongoing threat” to Edinburgh’s world heritage status, stating:

Regrettably the current situation, including both approved and proposed developments, appears to have tipped the balance inappropriately, away from conservation, towards inappropriate development. There is therefore an urgent need to reconsider, revise and re-frame current approaches to development… so as to deliver greater focus on values, to incorporate appropriate expertise and to improve engagement with the community.”

The director of UNESCO World Heritage, Mechtild Rossler has recently stated:

I would like to express the World Heritage Centre’s strong concern about the state of urban conservation in Edinburgh. The quality and pervasiveness of development projects being pursued without due consideration for conservation is deeply worrying.”

After concerted lobbying local MP Tommy Sheppard has now expressed his own misgivings, listing three strong concerns, urging that planning consent be suspended pending a thorough reconsideration of the application:

1) The Planning Report included no mention of the then ongoing review of the listing of the Central Library. This concluded very shortly afterwards, resulting in the upgrading of the Central Library’s listing category from B to A, in recognition of its national importance as the finest example of a Carnegie endowed library in Scotland. Had the decision to upgrade to an A listing been made before the meeting of the Development Management Sub-Committee, it seems reasonable to assume that Historic Environment Scotland would not have withdrawn their note of concern in relation to the proposal. Given that the eventual vote was so close, at 8-6 in favour, the Development Management Sub-Committee may have reported a different view.

2) The proposed development to which consent has been given is for a 225 bedroom hotel, with a total floor area of 11,950 sq.m. for hotel use and 185 sq. m for ‘other uses’ while other uses restaurant/bar etc. This represents a 98.5% to 1.5% split and must therefore contravene the Local Development Plan requirement for developments to be mixed-use. It is in any event a massive development for the size of the site.

3) The City of Edinburgh Council carried out its own environmental impact assessment in relation to the development, which recommended the rejection of the planning application, citing, among other concerns, the environmental impact on the Cowgate, as it already has amongst the worst air quality levels in the City.

If planning consent were retracted such an action would then allow the community to pursue the alternative vision, as outlined in the “Let There Be Light” petition, of using the recently legislated Community Empowerment Act, thereby safeguarding the Central Library and honouring the aspirations and remarkable achievements of the Library’s benefactor Andrew Carnegie who, at the opening ceremony of the Library in 1890 stated his desire that the Central Library:

“grow in usefulness year after year, and prove one of the most potent agencies for the good of the people of Edinburgh for all time to come”.

Inspired by the writings of Robert Burns and the Scottish Enlightenment, the importance of Carnegie’s legacy cannot be underestimated having established some 3000 public libraries throughout the World, representing perhaps the greatest tangible legacy a Scot has ever made for the betterment of Humanity.

Therefore, the importance of the public land long set aside for the benefit of the Library, but now threatened by this incongruous and audacious speculation, can hardly be overstated, were it to be used to honour Carnegie’s aspirations and re-vision the relevance of the public library service, which has otherwise become such a tragic victim of the despicable imposition of ‘austerity’. Indeed a recent Guardian article claims that over 300 libraries have now closed across the UK since the chicanery of the global financial ‘crisis’:

Libararies, as physical storehouses of information, safeguarding and imparting knowledge and wisdom, are regarded as the greatest expressions of civilisation, and though some question their relevance in thisdigital age, if for some reason the digital infrastructure collapsed conventional libraries would be absolutely essential to the survival of humanity.

It is the opinion of the utterly offended and disregarded local community that should this hotel be built it would constitute one of the greatest cultural crimes ever sanctioned by the City of Edinburgh Council.
In this year of Scottish Architecture and Design, for those not yet convinced that this matter is a disgrace images of the proposed hotel can be viewed at:

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On Wednesday the Planning Committee  of Edinburgh Council will consider a slightly revised plan by the developers. This is a stunning building the site of which had been kept to expand our beautiful Central Library and now looks likely to be sold for more cheap hotel accommodation. This is supposedly a UNESCO City of Literature ! ha! Simon Byrom a local planning activist has put this all better than me so I’m going to copy his email below. In the meanwhile go here to see my pics of the interior of the building when it was a tempoary gallery space.

Do come to the demonstration on Wed 9.30am outside the City Chambers if you are not working. Otherwise please circulate these petitions and write to the councillors below. THANK YOU THANK YOU  THANK YOU !!


Dear Supporters of the petition “No Confidence in the City of Edinburgh Planning Department”, it is with a heavy heart that I relay details concerning the latest ‘development’ controversy relating to the India Building’s application.

The local community have just learnt that Historic Environment Scotland (HSE), the government heritage body, have withdrawn their objection to the ‘development’, in response to the revised plans, claiming that the “proposals do not raise issues of national significance“, recognising that the revisions to the original plans “have attempted to address some” of the concerns of the original application.

 Yet while HSE considers that the “proposals do not raise issues of national significance” they note that theCouncil “may wish to investigate further the effect development on this site will have on the Library, specifically on light levels”, which as stated in their original objection is recognised as “the finest Carnegie library in the country”. SURELY THIS MERITS “NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE”! Were the library a Category A listed building this could have completely changed the position of HES. However, as revealed in their original objection:

 “The Central Library was designed by the architect George Washington Browne in

1887-90 and was listed Category B in 1970. In 2002 LDN Architects produced a

detailed and informative Conservation Plan which regarded the building as the finest

example of a Carnegie Library in Scotland, and one that should be upgraded to

Category A. We note your Council has also endorsed this view. We have no reason to

disagree with the LDN assessment, and will consider its merit as part of our

assessment of the current proposals.

In addition to HSE the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust has concluded that

the overall impact of the development on the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site remains, in our view, broadly neutral”.

 Yet, in spite of the universal significance of World Heritage and the responsibility of safeguarding its value for the benefit of humankind and succeeding generations, and in light of the outpouring of articles in the national and international press regarding the raft of ever expanding controversial planning decisions such as Caltongate, Craighouse, St Andrew’s Sq, St James Quarter, Quartermile… etc which have led to the creeping encroachment of speculative architectural wallpaper veneered ‘development’ which has elicited the alarming recent visits of ICOMOS, the UN’s heritage watchdog, HES and EWHT have effectively given the green light to the proposed India building’s ‘development’.

 This means that the ‘developer’ has overcome a major obstacle since had the HES objection stood the application would have been called in by the Scottish Government regardless of the impending Council decision which is to be decided next Wednesday 25th May.

 The planning department has now consequently recommended APPROVAL for the ‘hideous’ hotel and given the recent track record of the Council, and how compromised and  perverted by economic considerations it has become, it might seem like a fantastically hopeless cause.

 Yet given the relentless speculative, gentrification process that has been allowed to take place in recent years, running roughshod over the City and her Citizens, it could be said that the very future of the Old Town community, at the heart of the Nation, and its World Heritage status now hangs on the decision next Wednesday, so the voice of all the supporters of this petition is ESSENTIAL if there is to be any faith left in this democratic process!

 This Council made a pledge at the beginning of its term in 2012 to “listen to, and work with, local people” yet there has been ZERO public consultation to pursue alternative uses for the precious public assets implicated with the proposed India Building’s ‘development’.

 Moreover, in spite of the Council recognising that “there needs to be strong process for looking at the quality of how the Council has reached decisions so that there is genuine scrutiny and questioning of the actions it has taken”, the deal to dispossess the public property of the Cowgate, as an essential part of the proposed India Building’s ‘development’, has been stitched up ONCE AGAIN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, like most, if not all of the valuable property featured on the Edinburgh 12 ‘initiative’, including the jewel in the crown, the Royal High School, perched at the foot of Calton Hill, overlooking the majesty of Arthur’s Seat. And like the rot that plagued the Caltongate (New Waverley) debacle, where is the tendering process that otherwise defines the precious, though utterly discredited, psychopathic ideology of the free market which is supposed to ensure ‘best value’?

 We’ve been presented with ONE VERY MEDIOCRE option in consideration of the proposed India building’s ‘development’. With a little scrutiny it is evident that this is quite disgraceful.

 So in this City of Enlightenment and Literature,

 “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” – Dylan Thomas

 For those who have have been following this debacle you will know that the publicly owned land at the rear of India Building’s is due to be sold if the Council grant planning permission for this massive ‘hideous’ hotel ‘development’ next week.

 To lose such a precious piece of public real estate to such a shamelessly speculative, insensitive and mediocre piece of architecture, and in this the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, when it could otherwise be used to benefit the Central Library to develop further the vision of Scots born Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropic endeavours gifted over 2800 libraries throughout the World, would be a terrible embarrassment and insult to this city of Enlightenment and Literature, to add to the creeping plague of soulless architectural wallpaper which is putting the credibility of the World Heritage Status at such risk.

 Though some have come to regard the World Heritage Status as a curse, it is a reflection on the glorious achievements of the City’s guardians of the past, which in the spirit of Internationalism has come to be viewed as a universal treasure. Though the City still manages to achieve the highest plaudits on the World stage, in spite of its pot holes and grime, if this trend of disregarding Citizens and acquiescing instead to the interests of predatory capital, which in a global market has no heart and true loyalty, is allowed to continue the reputation of Edinburgh will be ruined, and with it the wellbeing of future generations betrayed.

 The importance of this land can hardly be overstated, as championed on the petition, were it to be used to advance the vision of Carnegie in the 21st century and arrest the fortunes of the public library service across the country, and indeed the World, which has so otherwise become a victim of so called ‘austerity’. Indeed a recent Guardian article claims that over 300 libraries have closed across the UK since the chicanery of the global financial ‘crisis’:

 If the current owners of the India Building’s who wish to pursue this speculative ‘development’ had regard for this city they would relinquish their bid for this land. Yet not only content to acquire this precious public resource they’ve managed to include the Cowgatehead Church property into the deal. This well used public building which has served the community for many years, specifically attends to the most needy and vulnerable in the Old Town community, and in a recent article published in the Herald it is claimed that the loss of this significant service “could lead to more deaths, mental illness and a soaring numbers of rough sleepers“:

 While there may be those who lack sufficient insight, sensitivity and empathy to care, particularly those who don’t know the area well, there are many in the local community who would rather contend with a few humble homeless souls than a plethora of soulless hotels and rowdy bars catering to party revellers who regularly trash the place.

 In reflection, this process of asset stripping public services and public property, in this rotten Age of Austerity and Endarkenment, reveals that in spite of us supposedly all “being in this together” the rich continue to get richer by feeding off the poor. Such a wicked, parasitical system has no place in a so called civilised, democratic society, and those who support or preside over such an ideology should have no mandate to serve.

 The predatory speculative ‘developers’ who have been busy making plans in the City have shown themselves untrustworthy. Indeed our elected representatives and public servants must now surely realise that these companies cannot be trusted to care about Our heritage. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the scandalous matter of South St Andrew’s Square where in an act of gross vandalism no less than THREE listed building were recently demolished with complete impunity. Then there is the case of the crumbling MacRae tenements of the Royal Mile, acquired in the shameful asset stripping “not-hideous-enough-to-refuse-planning-permission” scandal of Caltongate/New Waverley.

 So in light of all this, in order for Common Sense and decency to prevail, it is imperative at this 11th hour that Citizens raise their voices to the ears of public servants.

 In the first instance please write to your elected representatives ASAP who can be contacted via:

 If you have a councillor in your ward who sits on the committee who will make the decision next Wednesday (Development Management Sub-Committee) please contact them directly. Even though their primary duty is supposed to be to the City and her Citizens they are not actually allowed to state a view BUT THEY CAN HEAR YOUR OPINION! These councillors are:

 Councillor Ian Perry (Convener)
Councillor Alex Lunn (Vice-Convener)
Councillor Nigel Bagshaw
Councillor Jeremy Balfour
Councillor Angela Blacklock
Councillor Ron Cairns
Councillor Maureen Child
Councillor Dominic Heslop
Councillor Sandy Howat
Councillor Karen Keil
Councillor Adam McVey
Councillor Eric Milligan
Councillor Joanna Mowat
Councillor Lewis Ritchie
Councillor Keith Robson

 You may also wish to take up this matter with the Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee who meet the following day on Thursday 26 May, though it is more important to target the Development Management Sub-Committee since if they rubber stamp the deal it could be too late to challenge the decision. The councillors who sit on this committee are:

 Councillor Jeremy Balfour (Convener)
Councillor Maureen Child
Councillor Denis Dixon
Councillor Nick Gardner
Councillor Karen Keil
Councillor Melanie Main
Councillor Joanna Mowat
Councillor Gordon Munro
Councillor Jim Orr
Councillor Vicki Redpath
Councillor Lewis Ritchie
Councillor Alastair Shields
Councillor Stefan Tymkewycz

 Even if you don’t have a councillor who sits on these committees please write to your councillors anyway since they can lobby respective councillors.

 Besides elected representatives please also CC into your correspondence the CEO of Historic Environment Scotland and the Director of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust:

 Dr David Mitchell:

 Adam Wilkinson:

 and Scottish Parliament Cabinet Secretary:

and just for good measure Edinburgh Council Leader Andrew Burns:

 Besides the details above and that included on the petition:

 you might like to mention that the late submission of an official Environmental Assessment report by Andrew Campbell, Environmental Assessment, Services for Communities, recommends that planning permission for the proposed India Building’s hotel be REFUSED. This tallies with the Air Quality Management Area data for the area, which due to the relentless over-burdened encroachment of commercial interests on the area now breaches EU regulations:

  If you are able please come to the City Chambers next Wednesday for 10pm, with banners if possible, to show support for the Old Town community in resisting this appalling proposal.

 Also the community are having an event this Saturday to raise further awareness and gain greater support:

 10am: Leafletting outside Central Library George 4th Bridge

11.30: Photoshoot gathering outside Central Library followed by walkabout of area.

12.30: Picnic at Greyfriars Kirkyard (or Grassmarket Community Project if weather is poor). Bring food and drink to share!

After lunch: Gorilla gardening, litter picking, banner making and leafleting at the Cowgate site. Bring along materials if you have any to spare.

 Thank You so much for your support.

 Please share the petitions widely:

For the Love of Our City,

 Simon Byrom

 “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce” – Adam Smith

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This is the building opp to the Cafe Royal if you are puzzling about where it is. It’s on the buildings at risk register.   More info here at the Cockburn Associations’ Facebook page. The most important thing to note is that it looks likely that this building’s demolition will be rubber stamped without going to full planning committee as not enough objections have been lodged. You can email tonight as long has he gets the email before Monday raising objections to this building’s demolition.  To quote the Cockburn Association ‘We are concerned with the potential loss of the Category B listed building, dating from the 1850’s, to the corner of West Register Street and Register Place. This represents a good quality building within the conservation area and World Heritage Site with characteristic Craigleith sandstone finish and it should be retained.’

**UPDATE** got an email back from Euan McMeeken who said the planned demolition will go to the Planning Committee probably in October. If you are local please follow Cockburn Association either on facebook or twitter to get updates and be prepared to write or even go to the meeting. As this poor building is surrounded by commercial properties there is not a local constituency of people living near it to leap to its defence so Edinburgers please keep an eye on it!


Thank goodness the Venetian style warehouse beside it appears to being kept by the developers. I dashed past yesterday taking photos of the utterly charming and exquisite details on the building.

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april2015 383 april2015 363 april2015 361 april2015 362 april2015 366 april2015 364 april2015 365 april2015 369 april2015 368 april2015 379 april2015 371 april2015 373 april2015 374 april2015 375 april2015 376 april2015 377 april2015 378A few months ago my friend Michael Nobbs sent me an invitation inviting me to a (un)productivity Summit at Gladstone Library. It was an immediate YES! Perhaps because I’ve always wanted to live in a library. And this is a most unusual library. Housing 40000 volumes collected by British Prime Minister Gladstone and built after his death WITH rooms to stay in! It was the most delightful visit. The place itself is comfortable and comforting. The library is so full of the learning of generations of students it feels easy to sit and read and learn. Yes BOOKS!! not internet articles. There were only  five of us on the summit. Another delight unlike most conventions which contain multitudes after the initial minute anxiety the smallness of our numbers made it so easy and delightful to communicate in a really deep way about our struggles and finds when it comes to grappling with being productive and not being productive. Also we had a delightfully light programme. Presentations in the morning followed by general lolling about in the afternoon. Including walking through stunning woods (pictures to follow). As one of our participants Lourenço de Azevedo gave us sessions of Chi Kung every morning after breakfast we were able to stand in nature enjoying the birdsong. Also participating were Fabian Kruse The Friendly Anarchist and Milo Mclaughlin of Clearminded Creative 

Despite our gentle schedule we made time on our last day to record an episode of Mountain Shores podcast  – coming soon! And as all our presentations bar one with a technical hitch were recorded a mini site is going to be set up where they can be accessed. I’ll keep you updated.

In the meanwhile can we encourage more of these kinds of events? Lets get out from behind our screens and do meet ups in real life. This one was a bit ambitious having people from 4 different countries but why not?

Here plan your own at Gladstones Library!