City chiefs face cover-up claims over farm axe plan

OFFICIALS at Edinburgh City Council have been accused of potentially misleading councillors over a plan to sell off and demolish a listed building on a historic estate.

Members of the finance committee were told Cammo Home Farm Steading – owned by the local authority since 1980 – was beyond repair and were urged to sell the property to Cala Homes.

The Edinburgh-based housebuilder intends to demolish the sprawling former golf clubhouse and surrounding buildings on the Cammo Estate before developing two £1.5 million luxury villas on the land.

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However, Historic Scotland has now insisted the project in north-west Edinburgh be put on hold.

It emerged that the report from director of city development Dave Anderson – who has since been suspended over the property repairs scandal – failed to tell elected members about three rival bidders who insisted they could save the C-listed building.

Under planning rules, a listed building cannot be demolished unless it can be proved it is beyond repair.

Officials also told councillors they had been consulting with Historic Scotland over the proposed demolition, which the government agency denied.

A decision was due to be made on the demolition next week, but has now been postponed for several months.

Steven Robb, a heritage expert at Historic Scotland, wrote to the council: “If there are indeed parties who clearly bid for the building with the intention to repair and reuse the listed building then the SHEP test [for demolition] cannot be met. Therefore, on the basis of the information before us, we cannot support this application for demolition.”

In 1980, the council was handed ownership of the Cammo farm – built in 1910 – but allowed it to fall into considerable disrepair, particularly after it was vacated by its tenants around a decade ago.

Officials announced the sale of the building and in January asked councillors to choose Cala Homes East as the preferred bidder with an offer of around £600,000, although there is no suggestion that the developer is at fault.

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The Cockburn Association has also highlighted that the report to councillors contained inaccuracies that suggested officials were unfamiliar with protected building policies.

Assistant director Euan Leitch said: “The problems we have is that the report to the committee contains inaccurate claims and the councillors have chosen Cala Homes as its preferred bidder based on inaccurate information.”

He added: “The council should be setting a good example for the care of listed 
buildings, but Cammo Home Farm is a catastrophe and sets an incredibly poor example.”

Property developer Kamran Akbar, who made his fortune in guesthouses, has instructed a firm of architects to draw up a rival plan to retain the building. He is said to be reluctant to see Cammo Home Farm demolished and intends to buy and refurbish it should councillors turn Cala down.

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “We have advised Edinburgh City Council that if there is an interested party who has submitted an application to restore the building, this suggests the test has yet to be met.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of Historic Scotland’s concerns and we are considering our position.”