Sunday, August 28, 2016

Athens of the North, no more?

Because of the disruption on the trains from Queen Street, I spent much less time than usual in Edinburgh over the first half of the year.  But I've been there quite a bit during the festival, and I've found myself becoming increasingly transfixed (and not in a good way) by the large construction site between Calton Hill and the Royal Mile.  My first reaction was that the powers-that-be are not complete idiots, and that they must have something very tasteful and carefully considered in mind for such a sensitive area.  So I consulted the internet for some reassurance, and naturally discovered that every expert in the field has blasted the plans as barking mad, and that the city council had only narrowly given approval on the grounds that the buildings were not quite "hideous enough" to reject.  That's the kind of logic that I'd expect to hear in relation to Cumbernauld town centre, not the UN-designated World Heritage site at the heart of our capital city. I really must stop kidding myself that the internet is ever going to provide me with reassurance about anything.

I at least drew some small comfort from learning that the height of the buildings had been reduced after the initial objections.  But even over the course of the last few weeks, the shape of the large hotel has become suddenly apparent, and 'unobtrusive' is not the first word that springs to mind.  It's already tarnishing the view from Calton Hill.  The completed Costa and Premier Inn buildings aren't so noticeable, but that's mainly because they're obscured by the equally hideous council building which has presumably been there for decades.  I wandered down to Market Street today, and when you're actually in between the council building and the Premier Inn, the whole concept of being within the Old Town ceases to have any meaning.

Not being a resident of Edinburgh, I can't get a clear image in my head of what that area used to look like, and maybe if I could I'd realise that less is being lost than it appears.  I also appreciate that the whole of modern history has been punctuated by a war between conservation and opportunistic "development", and that you have to be philosophical and recognise that the forces of conservation aren't going to win every single battle.  But you'd think local councillors might just be intelligent enough to recognise that it's counterproductive to attempt to economically exploit the heritage of a city in a way that fundamentally taints that heritage.

Last year, I spent about ten days in the Balkans, and went to the Old Towns of both Mostar and Dubrovnik, which are also World Heritage sites.  In contrast to Edinburgh, the Old Town of Dubrovnik is pristine and almost perfectly preserved.  The famous bridge in Mostar was destroyed during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, but was swiftly and lovingly reconstructed, even using the original stones where possible.  You kind of feel that if Edinburgh city council had been in charge, they'd have said "ah well, it's gone now, we may as well stick a Starbucks and a car park there instead".

Apparently one of the biggest criticisms of "New Waverley" is the plan for a public square, which is alien to the architectural traditions of the Old Town.  But quite honestly, I hope the square fills up as much of the space as possible - that's the only part of the whole thing that won't be an eyesore.

I'll reserve judgement on whether New Waverley will turn out to be an even worse idea than allowing Donald Bloody Trump of all people to "stabilise the doons".  (Which the SNP have to accept a share of the blame for, although it has to be said that every political party apart from the Greens seemed to be wildly enthusiastic about it for some unfathomable reason.)

*  *  * 

I'm writing this on the train back to Glasgow, and I'm sitting opposite two Canadians who have been sneering about the Quebec sovereignty movement to anyone who will listen.  "That'll never happen!  They'd never survive!"  Just those same words over and over again.  Calm, Mr Kelly, calm calm calm...

37 comments:

  1. If I had the time and resources, I would love to put together profiles of each of Edinburgh's city councillors and how they have voted on the permissions for each of the various proposed architectural abominations. It would be a good resource to have ahead of next year's counci elections.

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    1. What about the trams?
      Unless these people have made specific election pledges about new major public expenditure during an election period,then they must return to the electorate for validation.
      Too many derive their modus operandi from England's parliament and assume that once elected,they can do whatever they please without further reference to their electorate.

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    2. Trams, too. Really, having an equivalent of Public Whip or TheyWorkForYou.com for each council area is the dream.

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  2. Glasgow Working Class 2August 28, 2016 at 11:43 PM

    That was a timely change of subject James. Hope you enjoyed the train journey on our privatised railway thanks to the Tories and Tartan cronies.

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  3. Timely change of subject from a Fife by-election? Why? By the way, I'm pretty confident the SNP voted against rail privatisation in the 1990s.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 12:33 AM

      It was getting interesting! The Nat sis have power over public transport now and can legislate. Any idea James how much money the Nat sis have been given from the privatised utilities in donations? You must be embarrassed James. Thought you were a socialist bloke!

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    2. I thought you were a Labourite until you outed yourself as a Tory. But perhaps there's no great contradiction there.

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    3. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 9:20 AM

      When outed?

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    4. Dear James, I could not agree more regarding Labour Edinburgh Councillors. I suspect if these red & blue tories were in charge of Rome City Council, they'd have bulldozed the Coliseum and laid tram lines down the Appian Way. Excellent article, as always. Thank you. It really makes my day when I get the email into my box telling me that you have posted. You never disappoint. You and people like you, have no idea the strength and sense of purpose you give to your silent majority readers. You even have you own little pet troll, which is an added bonus for entertainment, almost like a little house-elf, (Kreacher , not Dobbie of course). Strength & Honour. Invictus.

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    5. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      Self indulgent claptrap you silly Tartan Tory. Extend the Embra Trams and bring gack GARL. Only forward thinking politicians can improve transport infastructure. You Nat sis would bring back the Stagecoach!

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    6. how may lords and ladys in the snp then ?

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    7. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 10:43 PM

      Danny Bhoy, they will get round to it as they comply with Thatcherite policies.

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    8. Tory Sockpuppet.

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  4. New St was mostly a red brick bus depot James.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 10:47 AM

      Does yer pal Souter have it now?

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    2. Tory Sockpuppet.

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  5. Edinburgh planning is not fit for purpose and seem intent on losing the City's world heritage status. New St was a red brick bus depot but the Council had the chance to look for designs that were more in keeping with the area.

    For your own sanity, don't Google the designs for the St James Centre site, otherwise known as 'the Turd'.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 9:22 AM

      How long have the Nat sis been in power!

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    2. Tory Sockpuppet.

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  6. The area he is describing if I am correct isnt recognised as being part of the old town. The old town adjoins it.

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  7. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 7:19 PM

    Just wondering if the Frog Canadians are equal in moaning with hard done tae stories as the Jock Nat sis are. I will consult with my Scottish Canadian relatives.

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  8. You really are an odious turd gwc.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2August 29, 2016 at 11:48 PM

      I will consider this as a compliment.

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    2. Tory Sockpuppet.

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  9. While it's true that the larger part of the Caltongate site was for many year a fairly undistinguished bus depot, and previously the town gas works, that provides no cover at all for the shambles that has got Edinburgh to this sorry point. The new building may (or may not) have merit in their own rights but they add up to a giant mistake and missed opportunity which could take 100 years to correct.

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  10. While it's true that the larger part of the Caltongate site was for many year a fairly undistinguished bus depot, and previously the town gas works, that provides no cover at all for the shambles that has got Edinburgh to this sorry point. The new building may (or may not) have merit in their own rights but they add up to a giant mistake and missed opportunity which could take 100 years to correct.

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  11. The problem in Edinburgh seems to be the planning department. For decades it has vandalised the city by recommending quite unsuitable developments which councillors of any stripe don't seem willing to challenge. The comment, 'not hideous enough' came from a Tory councillor for Edinburgh city centre who almost voted against it. The ruling coalition is Labour-SNP. I have sat in on several controversial planning committee decisions in Edinburgh and can't detect a party bias. They seem unwilling to give direction to officials. Planners say, 'Oh we can't possibly have a pastiche development'. This is their term for any type of architecture which attempts to blend in with the historic fabric. Yet in other European cities, whenever a historic ediface is destroyed, its facade is lovingly rebuilt and reconstructed though the interior of the building may be built to modern dimensions, technologies and standards.

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  13. Edinburgh is a mess. It is still a beautiful city, in parts, but it has been spoilt by bad building beyond repair. I first came to Edinburgh in 1989, and knew someone whose father worked at the council. He said that it had not been spoilt like other cities because it was pretty much set in stone, scuse the pun, ­čśÇ that it could and would not be developed, ie the developers were kept out by what he called the 'city fathers'. That soon changed as we know.

    If you go to Ocean terminal, a terrible place really, with that dreadful so called 'Scottish office' (what do they do there?) opposite, you can walk into a big space in the middle with places to eat and drink. You can sit outside on a nice day, but don't bother. The view is of some clapped out harbour (marina?) with some bigish posh boats and cable ships parked, and then you can see Fife, but that is half blocked by the most ugly, disgusting high flats they built some years back in the Newhaven area on the very edge of the Forth. Those really are carbuncles, and can be seen from almost any view across the Forth.

    Many new 'developments' consist of either hotels, which we do not need, and student flats which are not needed and are very expensive to rent I hear. The student flats are everywhere, and the reason is that these so called developers prefer to build these because they do not pay tax, on what part I don't know, but maybe it is the land,
    the rents or any other profitable part of these crappy builds that are now dotted all around Edinburgh. It is a scam really.

    Planning at Edinburgh is a joke, it is really sad, that they are ruining such a beautiful city and destroying some of the amazing views which have made Edinburgh that bit more unique. They are destroying the whole look of Edinburgh by allowing totally out of place buildings even in parts of the city which are of a more historic aesthetic, and that is most of it!

    It could be worse, we could have a rogue like T.Dan Smith, as in Newcastle in the 50/60s who allowed some terrible builds in the city. He was locked up, though I presume for corruption on his part.

    Makes you wonder why these people allowing such dreadful building even when huge numbers of people protest and sign petitions against the proposals, feel it is ok to make such a mess of a once beautiful city. Hmmm.


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  14. As for Qu├ębec...

    Apparently Blair MacDougall's poisonous Better Together campaign consciously used the cynical but successful Canadian referendum-busting template.

    The Qu├ębec contributions in the following (2014-ish) video compilation are worth pondering:

    The Make Believers - A Documentary About Media Bias (29 mins)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX1hNW_bzAI&sns=em

    The following related video needs French (unless your readers can find it somewhere else with English subtitles):

    La Guerre Secr├Ęte Contre l'Ind├ępendance du Qu├ębec (45 mins)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRMdIn7IqkY&sns=em

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  15. I think it's a shame they didn't keep the Nor Loch.

    Aldo

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  16. Glasgow Working Class 2August 30, 2016 at 8:14 PM

    The Nat sis attempt at splitting the Union failed so why not attempt to split Canada a country that has tens of thousands of Scots who have worked hard with other immigrants to build a new country.

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  17. Glasgow Working Class 2August 30, 2016 at 8:31 PM

    Another Nat si advisor says the Nat sis were wrong in saying they wanted to share the GBP before the referendum. Duh!

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