Caltongate site attracts interest from 43 firms

An artist's impression of the new Caltongate development
An artist's impression of the new Caltongate development
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SOUTH African developers who have bought-up a long-standing gap site in Edinburgh city centre claim there are 43 firms vying to open a hotel there.

More than half of the potential operators bidding to open a hotel as part of the controversial Caltongate project are also said to be five-star operators.

The consortium led by Artisan Real Estate has confirmed to The Scotsman it is pressing ahead with the most contentious part of the long-delayed project, earmarked for a huge swathe of the city’s Old Town.

Lukas Nakos, frontman of the consortium, said it was crucial to the project that it had an address on the Royal Mile, despite this prospect involving the demolition of two listed buildings.

Artisan is under mounting pressure to ditch previously-approved plans for the site, due to concerns from heritage bodies who believe it will dominate the Canongate area of the Royal Mile and ruin classic views of the city.

However council leaders want the development to go ahead as quickly as possible and want to avoid the project having to go back to the drawing board.

The first plans for the site of the old New Street bus depot emerged 13 years ago, although it has changed hands several times since then.

The previous owner of the site, London-based Mountgrange, plunged into administration just months after winning final approval for its plans.

Mr Nakos said: “All of the elements of the previous scheme are still viable and we intend working within the existing planning consent, although we want to make sure that everything is still relevant and is sensitive to the surroundings.

“When the scheme was previously approved there was a very strong view that it would bring significant employment benefits and improve the environment in this part of the city.

“We have had bids for the hotel element from 43 different international operators. Of these, I would say more than 30 are for five-star hotels. They are all serious bidders, although we haven’t signed a deal with anyone yet.”

Although groups like Edinburgh World Heritage and the Cockburn Association had opposed Caltongate, it had been backed by the council’s planning committee and Historic Scotland officials.