The appeal by developer Glovart Investments Ltd to the Scottish Government has been allowed (Ref. CAC-230-2001).

1–6 Canonmills will probably be demolished and redeveloped.

The decision has shocked and disappointed campaigners who fought to retain the popular, low-profile structure currently occupied by Earthy.

They’d hoped 7,000 signatures and the support of the Council’s Development Management Sub-Committee (DMSC) back in August (Ref. 15/01786/CON; Breaking news, 26.8.15) would be enough to win the case.

Reporter cuts straight to heart of the problem

Reporter Frances McChiery was unpersuaded.

For a start, she quickly nailed the contradiction between the DMSC’s approval of planning permission back in 2010 (Ref. 09/00830/FUL) and its refusal on other grounds to grant permission for demoliton in 2015:

I consider that the previous decision by the council to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of the site, and further, their views that the new development would preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area, are material considerations which I should take into account. No fundamental flaw in that decision making process has been indicated. I do not consider it necessary or appropriate to revisit the council’s considerations and reach my own view on the appropriateness, or relative value of the approved redevelopment scheme for the site. I proceed on the basis that there are acceptable proposals for the replacement of the building.

Architectural quality – or lack of it

Having reached that stage, McChiery considered the value of the existing building to the character and appearance of the Inverleith Conservation Area.

She found it to be of no special architectural significance or particular beauty. It is not, she says, typical of other structures in the immediate vicinity or of the Conservation Area, to which it is in any case rather peripheral:

The building is not unattractive in its modesty, and it would be fair to call it ‘quaint’, but in its setting and context, I do not consider the building to be of any importance to the character and interest of the Inverleith conservation area.

Interpretation of planning regulations

This all gets a bit technical, so we'll keep it short and simple.

Contrary to the DMSC’s most recent assertions, the reporter found that demolition would indeed comply with policies ENV 2 and ENV 5 of the current development plan and its emerging replacement. Dismissing DMSC’s arguments concerning the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (2011), she did not think that the current unlisted building is of sufficient quality to be kept.

In other words, DSMC's line of argument was complete pants.

Public opinion – notable but largely irrelevant

McChiery acknowledged that loads of people opposed demolition of the structure:

However, many of the views expressed are actually objections to the alternative development proposals, which has already been approved by the council. I have noted and taken account of the strong expressions of support for the current situation, but many elements of these have not been relevant to the central question before me, which concerns the importance of the building to the conservation area.

Conditions and limited wriggle-room

In allowing the appeal, she concluded by setting two conditions before any work begins: first, that a thorough archaeological investigation of the site be carried out; second, that contracts be let for the construction of the replacement proposal.

The reporter’s decision at this stage is final, unless objectors can find a point of law on which to mount a challenge before the Court of Session within six weeks.

Any lessons?

  • Nobody looked ahead, pre-2009, and saw this coming. We need more Cassandras.
  • Officials originally backed the redevelopment plans, and the DMSC accepted their advice.
  • Locals, councillors, community councils and others did not respond promptly, clearly, loudly or in sufficient numbers  to reports like this: Issue 170, p. 2Breaking news, 27.10.10.
  • The DMSC decision of 2015 looks – to many observers – like botched, untimely, cynical posturing motivated by fear of a voter backlash.
  • The planning system, as currently configured, does not attribute the same value to beloved but architecturally mediocre structures as do the people who live around them.
  • Organised public opinion is a marvellous and energising force for communities. This setback should not discourage activists. Concerned locals just need to get cannier about the system and more organised in advance. Long-term success comes from continuous organisation, effort and time, not intense, short-term responses to crisis.
  • What follows is the opinion of one person at the Spurtle. The proposed replacement structure at 1–6 Canonmills may not be much more charming or distinguished than its predecessor, but it's really not too awful. It will certainly take some getting used to, but eventually it will mellow. And in the meantime, it will be fitter for purpose. And when someone tries to knock it down in 2150 there will probably be one hell of a stink.

Got a view? Tell us at and @theSpurtle and Facebook


Press release from Deidre Brock MP (Edinburgh North and Leith): 'This is a very disappointing decision. The fantastic local campaign to save 1-6 Canonmills Bridge demonstrated the strength of feeling against demolition. The planned development is an inappropriate size for the site, and will close down the sense of space in this central hub area of Canonmills. It’s very sad that a building with such character will be bulldozed for a bland housing block. I’ll continue to support the campaign as they consider whether there are any further avenues to halt this decision.'

Sorely disappointed by this news: Canonmills Bridge – demolition permission granted 

@theSpurtle "botched, untimely, cynical posturing" That's pretty much @Edinburgh_CC standard modus operandi. They're a disgrace.

@theSpurtle "botched, untimely, cynical posturing" - but if they'd just pressed ahead, would no doubt be accused of ignoring local concerns

@alistairkgrant You're right, but after 2010 decision CEC would have been straighter to stick by decision or fess up to irreparable mistake.

Alistair Grant Alistair Grant ‏@alistairkgrant

@theSpurtle True. The whole thing's a mess.

Unbelievable, thousands protest to save a rare landmark building, busy popular business and for what?@theSpurtle @planningedin @Edinburgh_CC

@theSpurtle 7 cllrs approved the design in 2010. If only the minutes named them all. Still no transparency in 2016.

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.@papawasarodeo Councillor @jomowat was outspokenly against the design.

@theSpurtle this is who was on the DMSPC that week. It's clear @LAHinds Lowrie @jomowat & Paisley tried to stop it.

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Very sad news for #Edinburgh folk

Marquis Melrose Marquis Melrose ‏@MasterMelrose

@theSpurtle 1-6 isn't architecturally/historically important enough to save, but Warriston Cottage which is clearly both is still destroyed?

Paul Burgess The wrong decision against local democracy very sad indeed.

Katie McWilliam Soane so sad! Not sure why buildings that are quaint aren't worth anything.

Rebecca Bridgland Unbelievable

Neale Gilhooley Beyond despicable, behind door deals after thousands objected. Who are our city council working for?

@MasterMelrose @theSpurtle community affection for a building ought to count for something in this era of 'placemaking'

@theSpurtle and an opportunity for me to remind @AndrewDBurns of this golden oldie.

This will be an excellent improvement. Will voting records be published as #opendata too @AndrewDBurns ?

Cllr. Andrew D Burns ‏@AndrewDBurns

@papawasarodeo @theSpurtle still being actively pursued!

papa was a rodeo papa was a rodeo ‏@papawasarodeo

@theSpurtle we could ask @robm2 @cdundas @MaureenChild1 @cameronrose how they voted. And whether they regret it?

Raymond Rose Council Planning Dept and developers stich up.... i can imagine the line 'dinnie worry lads, it'll get through on appeal, when the knitted muesli brigade pipe doon, after their hallabaloo "

Bill Dunlop It seems there's a real disconnect between local opinion and CoE Council's planning persons, and what feels like a very cynical attitude toward those trying to alter their clearly preferred option. Doesn't bode well for future decisions.

Alison Campbell FFS. Booooooo!

Sadly, we were backing a horse that had already bolted. Read @theSpurtle’s spot-on analysis #Canonmills #Earthy: 


Don’t have blind faith in government. The people and the press (e.g. @theSpurtle) need to make sure Edinburgh Council serves us.

@theSpurtle @papawasarodeo jumping in late as trying hard not to curse v.v. Disappointed

@LillyLyle @Edinburgh_CC @theSpurtle It's what @scotgov call "sustainable economic development." The emphasis being on latter two words :-(

@LillyLyle @Edinburgh_CC @theSpurtle @scotgov underlines how fundamentally undemocratic planning system is, skewed against local interests.

Jennifer Wood ‏@JenWoodLike

Does anyone who work's in Edinburgh planning actually like Edinburgh?

@ArchHist @Edinburgh_CC @theSpurtle @scotgov When they have finally destroyed all of Edinburgh's charm, they'll see it was uneconomic dev't.

@papawasarodeo @theSpurtle Thanks to @MichaelMacLeod1 's marvellous Guardian local work we can see what I thought - 

@papawasarodeo @theSpurtle @robm2 @MaureenChild1 @cameronrose I suppose I do regret not convincing more of the Committee to vote with me.

Well done @Edinburgh_CC ignoring the people you're meant to work for #highfives

@papawasarodeo @theSpurtle @cdundas @MaureenChild1 @cameronrose I regret the previous decision - that's why I helped the campaign this time.

Paul Burgess The wrong decision against local democracy very sad indeed.

Lorraine Moore The development should never have been accepted in the first place and for that - I cannot forgive the council planning department of those times, Edinburgh should have quality developments - not over sized boring tall boxes that bring no quality to the area.

Gordon Duffy The Appeal reporter will more often than not side with Planning case officer recommendation rather than a decision overturned by lay members of Council

Ross McElhinney What a shame. Not a surprise by this useless council. Has anyone got a record of when they actually made a decent decision?

Scott Richards FFS Hibs....oh, wrong people, same feeling. Shame.

Jamie Stryker Disappointed in this decision.

Ross McEwan Not finished yet!!!

Ady Gaham gutted . . . 

Emily Simpson I agree with much of the article other than proposed building not being awful. It looks really awful.

Samantha Currie I'm so fed up with crappy planning decisions being made in this city - it's all about money. Fighting a similar battle in my neighbourhood which has gone to appeal - feeling very gloomy about the whole business

Helen McGoldrick Another beautiful part of Edinburgh to be spoilt by a bland and ugly new build, ECC should hang their heads in shame.

Rebecca Bridgland Unbelievable

Graeme Purves I am not clear why the Reporter considers that a building being 'typical of other structures in the immediate vicinity" makes it more worthy of conservation. There is a range of building types in the vicinity, as is clear from the photograph.

Euan McCulloch As I said on the Cockburn posting, this seems to me to be the kind of case that highlights the need for some form of community right of appeal. Things might have been more straightforward if that had been available for the original decision on the new-build.

Cal Daniels I'm still baffled as to why any developer is allowed to demolish a thriving business in any community. dreadful decision.

@theSpurtle @savecanonmillsB the fact it was rejected before but approved now shows what a mockery the Planning Dept at the Council are.

 Lesley Pearson The Reporter may have gone by the book. Still doesn't make what is about to happen at this well-loved corner pleasant or acceptable.

Campaigners opposed to the development posted the following on their Facebook page yesterday evening:

Save 1 - 6 Canonmills Bridge We are looking at all options, and we need your support – the more the better! We already have offers of bodies for chaining to railings and sitting before bulldozers – but hope it doesn’t come to that… If you have expertise or influence, beyond body strength, either post or message us… we need the press and our politicians to speak out!

Regarding the decision, the Reporter has taken on board the owner/developer’s appeal document, hook line and sinker, without seeming to take into account the refutations in our submission.
The Reporter made her decision on the importance of the existing building, stating, ‘it does not contribute to the appearance of the conservation area to any significant degree’. We think she is wrong – and all 15 councillors on the planning committee agreed with us on 26th August 2015. 
We are stunned by the lack of democracy. Watch this space.

Malcolm Chisholm Msp Malcolm Chisholm Msp ‏@MalcolmChishol1

Inundated in emails + surgeries by constituents outraged at decision of ScotGov reporter against @savecanonmillsB and unanimous Council view

Lizzie Rynne Lizzie Rynne ‏@CityCycling 

.@MalcolmChishol1 bad for local democracy and bad for community engagement. Planning 'system' failing. @savecanonmillsB @theSpurtle

Cockburn Association ‏@thecockburn

A reminder of the permitted development for Canonmills Bridge. Granted permission by the city council 5 years ago. 

 Save 1 - 6 Canonmills Bridge No new petition. We will offer guidance as soon as we can. We are talking to politicians and clarifying strategy at the moment and will advise as soon as practicable. Meantime, just help us keep the profile of this outrage up, in the public eye…

@theSpurtle 1-6 isn't architecturally/historically important enough to save, but Warriston Cottage which is clearly both is still destroyed?

Lorraine Moore ‏@MooreSnp

@MalcolmChishol1 @theSpurtle @savecanonmillsB I don't think this is over but I fear that there is little that can be done now - so sad

Ross McEwan Ross McEwan ‏@ecossedoc

@MooreSnp @MalcolmChishol1 @theSpurtle @savecanonmillsB Lorraine there is but it is now totally political and democratic


SEE ALSO RELATED COVERAGE IN Breaking News (1.2.16).

1–6 Canonmills Bridge
55° 57' 7.0992" N, 3° 10' 6.2328" W