Caltongate architect hits out at 'thoughtless' objections

THE architect behind Edinburgh's controversial Caltongate development has defended the scheme, saying the city must "move on or die".

Allan Murray hit out at the development's opponents, saying arguments against the scheme are "lacking in thoughtfulness."

The 300 million redevelopment recently received the backing of city councillors following an eight-hour meeting.

The plans have attracted 2000 objections since they were first submitted three years ago.

Save Our Old Town, the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage all fiercely oppose the plans, which involve the demolition of two C-listed buildings.

But Mr Murray, of Harrison Gardens-based Allan Murray Architects, says the objections show "a real ignorance of the city".

The 49-year-old said: "The things we hear are so emotionally charged and lacking in thoughtfulness that it is scary. You just have to walk down the Royal Mile to see the changes.

"Would any of them have wanted to live in the Edinburgh of the 17th century? It was disease-ridden, imploding, untenable, teetering on the brink of disaster."

The architect – who is also responsible for The Tun building on Holyrood Road and the Omni Centre on Leith Walk – believes the Capital would once again be "teetering on the brink of disaster" if it failed to move with the times.

He said: "In the post-war period when the Abercrombie plans were being enacted (in Glasgow], Edinburgh was quick to reject them.

"They were quite right to resist them, but they also stymied development for a good 20 years.

"Cities are like volcanoes, they always have to move. If they don't they're dead."

Mr Murray has particular criticism of the Cockburn Association, the conservation body which was set up in 1875.

"They are like the boy who cried wolf," he said. "They've been attacking developments for decades, saying that each one would ruin Edinburgh forever."

The Caltongate scheme will now go to Scottish ministers for final approval, and protesters are hoping to force a public inquiry.

Architectural historian David Black – the man who sparked a European investigation over the Holyrood parliament building – has already demanded a probe into the Caltongate scheme.

Mr Black has contacted the European Commission with allegations the city council broke competition laws over the sale of land for the massive project.

It is unclear what the result of any investigation would be, but Mr Black believes the EC could technically derail the project.

Mr Murray added: "Democracy has to have its day. It's right we ask people's opinions and it's right that people feel passionate about the city, but decision-making can't be left to pressure groups.

"In a few years' time, people will be wandering around it wondering what all the fuss was about."