Caltongate failure set to free up condemned flats for rent

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UNDER-THREAT council houses on the Canongate are set to be reused after the collapse of the Caltongate scheme.

Campaigners have been fighting the council for the last 18 months since the local authority started moving tenants out of the nine one-bedroom flats ahead of the 300 million project getting underway.

Developer Mountgrange Capital was meant to be meeting the cost of the rent while the flats laid empty but council chiefs today admitted they failed to collect a single penny before Mountgrange went into administration in March.

The outstanding rent is thought to be around 18,000, with officials admitting they are not sure how they will recover that money.

Council chiefs said they intend to assess the flats to see what it would take to bring the properties up to a condition fit for rent.

The nine council flats were due to be bulldozed or partially demolished as part of the Caltongate project, which was sunk when Mountgrange's bankers pulled the plug.

A further nine private flats at 227-229 Canongate have been bought up by Mountgrange over the last two years and are now in the hands of the administrator Deloitte.

Campaigners today welcomed the chance of getting people back into the empty properties, particular in light of the city's affordable housing crisis.

Julie Logan, spokeswoman for the Save Our Old Town campaign group, said: "We are really pleased that the council has finally seen the sense of the recommendation that we made in our Caltongate project report.

"There should not be a lot to do to these flats because a lot of them have had new doors and glazing, and also modernised inside in recent years.

"It will be good to get people into these homes, even on a temporary basis, and then start to have a proper look at what can be done with the area longer-term."

City leaders are trying to find firms to take on the gap site but it is thought it could be years before work gets underway.

A council spokeswoman said, "The council is considering options for bringing the nine flats back into temporary use until the future of the Caltongate development is known.

"A number of considerations need to be taken into account including the cost of bringing these properties up to rentable condition, and the timescale in which the new development is due to begin. If this proves to be feasible and cost effective, then bringing these properties back into use is a real possibility."

She added: "One of the terms Mountgrange had provisionally agreed to was they would cover the rent loss associated with the empty Council properties.

"However, as discussions are ongoing with the administrators, we are not in a position to say how this will money will be recovered."

Do you think Caltongate will ever happen?

Linda Hunter, 59, retired, Fairmilehead: "Something will happen though I doubt it will be as big and controversial as what was first put forward."

Kenny Mason, 21, student, Newington: "It strikes me that it is the sort of thing which will stay empty for years while everyone fights it out. I hope I am wrong because it is an embarrassment for the city having such a huge gap site like that."

Sarah Cooper, 30, writer, Easter Road: "It is too good an opportunity for someone not to snap it up eventually. It might take a while because everyone will be trying to get a bargain."