Shrub Place Homes, Edinburgh Housing Public Inquiry, Wimpey Homes Developer, Architect

Shrub Place Development Edinburgh

Shrub Place Public Enquiry, Edinburgh, Scotland

9 Mar 2004

Shrub Place Development

Shrub Place Campaign – March 9th 2004

The Shrub Place Public Inquiry got underway today at the McDonald Road Library’s Nelson Hall.

Following some technical/legal arguments between the Council’s QC, Mr Steele and Wimpey Homes’ QC, Mr Martin, it was Mr Paul Garber’s (Wimpey’s planning director) turn to step into the witness stand and present his evidence: Wimpey Homes had put in a lot of hard work, attended community planning workshops and pre-submission meetings with planning officials in good faith.

They were surprised that councillors overruled planning officials’ recommendation to approve Wimpey Homes’ schemes repeatedly. During cross-examination (some five hours) by the Council’s QC and me, Mr Garber agreed (had to) inter alia that:

a. sunlight/daylighting problems had been identified by council officials (contrary to his earlier allegation that councillors had made up these reasons for refusal without the benefit of professional advice
b. Wimpey Homes’ experts on daylighting and heritage matters were hired only three months ago
c. affordable housing was not something Wimpey Homes was willing to consider anywhere on the site, although they supported the citywide policy in principle
d. Wimpey Homes instructed Jenkins & Marr (their Aberdeen based architects) to achieve a certain minimum number of units or floorspace AFTER they had made an offer for the site, but were not prepared to reveal actual figures
e. Wimpey Homes seemed to have failed to provide a Design Statement for their latest scheme, contrary to a number of concrete requests
f. both Wimpey Homes schemes would constrain the future potential residential
development opportunities available to the Masonic Social Club
g. Wimpey Homes did not provide a new noise report for their latest scheme, although it is allegedly quite different from their previous schemes
h. there may have been a misunderstanding by Council officials, Wimpey Homes and Wimpey Homes’ architects as to the difference between the Design Statement (to be written by Wimpey Homes accompanying the application) and the site design guidance document (written by the Council).

Shrubhill House - Shrub Place Development Edinburgh
image © Adrian Welch

The programme for the rest of the Inquiry is as follows (small changes are possible):

10 Mar: Wimpey’s witnesses
Mr Paul Garber, Wimpey (continued)
Mr Smith, Jenkins & Marr – architectural matters
witness from Driver Jonas – daylighting

11 Mar
Mr Pirie, Hurd Rolland – built heritage
Mr Massie, Jenkins & Marr – planning matters
Mr Boswell, WSP – transport

12 Mar: Council witnesses
Trevor Davies, Planning Committee Convener – planning and design
Mr Murray, Allan Murray Architects – architectural matters

15 Mar
witness from City of Edinburgh Council – affordable housing
Mr Gannon, City of Edinburgh Council – noise
Mr Timperley, City of Edinburgh Council – traffic

16 Mar
Mr Cameron, City of Edinburgh Council – design
witness from City of Edinburgh Council – education

17 Mar: Pilrig Residents Association witnesses
David Jamieson of Zone Architects – architecture and design
Heather Wilson resident of Edinburgh’s oldest colonies at Shaw’s Place/Terrace and Street – Shaw’s perspective
Sarah Cumings, local resident and frequent pedestrian user of Leith Walk – pedestrian environmental perspective
James MacLean, treasurer of Masonic Social Club – Masonic club’s perspective
Harald Tobermann, Chairman and Urban Design Spokesman of Pilrig Residents
Association – design statement and consultation
Cockburn Association witnesses
Oliver Chapman, Oliver Chapman Architects – architecture and design
John Byrom, landscape architect – open space and landscape

18 Mar: Reporters’ accompanied site visit

19 Mar: summing up
Cockburn Association
Pilrig Residents Association
City of Edinburgh Council
Wimpey Homes Scotland

Unless otherwise indicated, the Shrub Place Inquiry will sit every day 9.30am to 4.30/5pm with a one hour lunchbreak. Show your support and attend the Inquiry when you can – just drop in.

Recent Shrub Place developments and some background to the case is covered in articles by The Herald 9 March 2004 and the Evening News 9 March 2004.

Shrub Place Campaign letter

Dear Adrian

The planning department’s report before the Committee on Wednesday contains at least one serious logical flaw (see below for details) and both Wimpey’s scheme and the Planning Report fly in the face of Scottish Executive guidance (see extracts from DESIGNING PLACES below).
I think the points made below speak for themselves.
Best wishes
Harald Tobermann, Pilrig Residents Association, 17 Pilrig St, EDINBURGH
Tel+Fax 0131 555 5956 Email [email protected]

Shrub Place Campaign PR
Planning Department’s Report on Shrub Place contains major flaws

“in the approved Proposed Alteration to the local plan (March 2001), the entire site is redesignated Housing and Compatible Uses” (p12/p50 Policy) “the principle of residential use is therefore not opposed on the site” (p14/p52 Assessment) the report fails to mention that this proposed (but not yet adopted!) redesignation has been formally objected to.

At the Public Enquiry earlier this year, the Reporter indicated that he is minded to approve the proposed change of use for the site BUT on the understanding that other relevant guidance (eg Scottish Executive’s DESIGNING PLACES) would be fully applicable. The reporter’s written findings have not yet been made public. The report fails to demonstrate how the application complies with DESIGNING PLACES.

“since the adopted policy (of Affordable Housing) was not in place at the point of registration (of the application), it has already been agreed that the Affordable Housing Policy will not be applied” (p14/p52 Assessment) the change of use mentioned above and the Affordable Housing Policy are both part of the Proposed Alteration to the local plan, which has not been adopted yet.

The report embraces the former, but rejects the latter. This is more than an inconsistency. This is a serious error and should on its own suffice to refuse the application in its current form.

“the proposed density and layout detailed in the application drawings is NOT CONSIDERED SATISFACTORY” (p8/p46 Environmental and Consumer Services comment on application) the report addresses this unambiguous statement by delegating powers to the head of planning to approve any noise abating measures submitted subsequently by the applicant. Would any tinkering with such measures really overcome fundamental concerns about layout and density?

Report and Wimpey Homes’ Proposal are in conflict with key statements in DESIGNING PLACES:

The following quotes are taken from DESIGNING PLACES and are clearly not addressed by the Planning Department’s Report or the applicant’s design. In addition to the minister (see below), advise from within the department (Design & Conservation – Policy & Projects, the section working on the Council’s own URBAN DESIGN GUIDELINES) as well as from the Reporter on the Local Plan Enquiry have both verbally asserted the relevance of DESIGNING PLACES to Shrub Place and the current proposal.

“Designing Places is now a material consideration in decisions on all planning matters” (Lewis Macdonald, Deputy Minister for Transport and Planning).
“Saying that the council is committed to good design, or that development should respect its context, is not enough. Many local authorities have said just that for years, without significant results.”

“Development plans should contain a positive and sustainable vision of the area’s future priorities based on a thorough understanding of how the area functions, the challenges it is expected to face and community requirements.”

The plan should set out key design policies relating to issues that are particularly important locally, and to specify areas and sites where change is expected.”

“Those six qualities – identity, safe and pleasant spaces, ease of movement, a sense of welcome, adaptability and good use of resources – are at the heart of good design for urban and rural development.

Shrub Place Campaign circular 12 Aug 2004

Dear all

Aquick reminder to all with an interest in the campaign against Wimpey’s plans for Shrub Place. As you know, Wimpey Homes’ application will be decided 14 August by the Council’s Development Quality Subcommittee.

However, as Shrub Place is only item 8 on the agenda, discussion of the scheme’s merits (if any) will commence from c. 10.30am onwards. It will be straightforward to slip in and out of the meeting room at any time. A good turnout is important to support those councillors on the Committee courageous* enough to speak out and vote against Wimpey’s inferior proposal for Leith Walk’s and Pilrig’s most important site.

Let’s see whether our elected representatives will tear into and finally throw out Wimpey Homes’ “large urban fabric with penetrations” (description of Shrub Place design by Wimpey’s architect).

Harald Tobermann, Pilrig Residents Association

* because the Planning Department has recommended the scheme for approval, Councillors will have to defend their decision without any assistance from planning officials, when Wimpey appeals to the Scottish Executive, thus risking ending up on the losing side, something politicians (and, indeed most other lifeforms) are reluctant to do.

Shrub Place: main page

Shrub Place was placed on the market for a second time, in Sep 2004.

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