EU launches probe into city's handling of Caltongate plans
THE EU today became the latest organisation to launch an investigation into the handling of the controversial £300 million Caltongate plans.
Architectural historian David Black, who sparked a similar European investigation over the Holyrood parliament building, has succeeded in persuading officials in Brussels to consider his complaint against the city council.
The move comes just weeks after the UN heritage watchdog Unesco launched an investigation into Edinburgh's World Heritage status, amid concerns over the impact of the Caltongate development.
Mr Black – a founder of the Old Town Association – raised a number of issues in his complaint, and claimed competition laws were broken in the sale of a patch of land for the massive project.
He also claimed that planning convener Jim Lowrie breached rules by prematurely commenting on the scheme in the Evening News – although the Standards Commission for Scotland later cleared him of this.
After five months, the office of the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, has ruled Mr Black's complaints admissible. Although no comment has been made on the validity of the allegations, officials will now decide whether to start an "infringement procedure" – which could lead all the way to the European courts.
Mr Black said this means the Caltongate development could still be scrapped, although sources close to the project believe this to be highly unlikely.
"I think the council is very vulnerable ... these decisions cannot stand, and this could be an incredible outcome as a point of law of this.
Five years ago, Mr Black lodged a complaint with the European Commission over the 414m Scottish Parliament project, alleging mismanagement, secrecy and bias. The Commission decided that rules had been broken, although no further action was taken because the Scottish Executive had taken steps to prevent a repeat.
One of his key allegations regarding Caltongate centres around a patch of council-owned land, which Mr Black believes the council supplied to developer Mountgrange for around 5m without offering it on the open market.
A council spokesman said: "The council's financial involvement relates to commercial agreements on property which have been reported openly to the council.
"It is routine for public and privately-owned land to be taken together for the sake of developments that benefit the city.
"We are obliged to raise market value on property we sell and we are comfortable that we have done that."
An official from the Secretariat-General said the Commission will "consider (the] complaint in the light of the applicable Community law", but warned that this did not mean an infringement procedure would necessarily be opened.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West