Below is text which I plan to submit to the Scottish Government’s “Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals”. It is in response to an application to appeal a decision of the City of Edinburgh Council to reject an application to demolish Comiston Farmhouse and replace it with flats.
I am writing to you to express my heartfelt opposition to the proposed demolition of Comiston Farmhouse and the redevelopment of the plot into high density flats. This is my own personal view and that of the vast majority of the local community I was elected to represent on the 4th of May 2017. Indeed, as part of my election campaign I pledged to protect Comiston Farmhouse as I believe it to be an important local historical landmark. The building may not be listed, but the position it holds at the top of a hill makes is stand out as a classical island surrounded by a sea of more modern, and some would argue more mundane, architecture.
Although the local community is overwhelmingly opposed to the loss of the Farmhouse, it would be wrong to assume they are “NIMBY” types. I feel almost all would be most happy to see the Farmhouse revert to being a family home, but most accept further development within the site is almost inevitable. It is the loss of the farmhouse and the scale of proposed development they oppose, not development per se. Put bluntly, an approach that better reflects the surrounding urban form and interfaces better with local infrastructure would be more acceptable to them.
The basis upon which the planning application was rejected was not a surprise to me or anyone familiar with the proposal:
- The proposed development of the site does not reflect the character of the surrounding residential area and will have a negative impact on the immediate environment. This is exacerbated by the topography, in that the proposed development’s position at the crest of a hill would mean it would dominate the immediate area.
- The proposed development will be of a density and scale which does not reflect the wider suburban context the Comiston Farmhouse site fits within. If allowed to proceed, it will be completely at odds with the wider setting.
Whilst both these points are non-trivial, they have been considerably exacerbated by the way in which the developer has interacted with local residents, Council Officers and Councillors. An example of this is the planning hearing where, I feel, the developer often verges on dismissing the views of others. This can be viewed in full here.
In addition to the material concerns I have raised in relation to the character, scale and density of the proposed development herein, two other factors are worthy of note. Firstly, the City of Edinburgh Council has now terminated the agreement to sell the site to the developer. Secondly, in addition to the existing protection, the City of Edinburgh Council is in the final stages of processing a Tree Preservation Order for key trees on the site.
In conclusion, I hope that the wishes of the local community and the City of Edinburgh Council will be respected when dealing with this appeal and that it is promptly rejected. Rejection of the appeal will enable me to take forward plans myself and other Councillors for the area have drafted to engage the community more fully via the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act in order to find a more acceptable use for the site.