Edinburgh Central Library vs Virgin Hotels petition outcome briefing note

The ‘generic briefing note’ agreed at the Finance and Resources Committee on 1 February 2019 is reproduced below here. Producing this briefing note sought to address the second of two petition demands (see http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory_record/1043589/edinburgh_central_library_vs_virgin_hotel) requiring a ‘detailed report on purchasing back land and buildings which form part of the India Buildings hotel-led development, sold by the Council without a full consultation on the implications for the Central Library.’

Cllr Alasdair Rankin

Convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, hoped that its production would provide some closure on the concerns of Let There Be Light campaigners. However, it does not allow citizens of Edinburgh and their elected representatives to fully understand the true financial cost that the loss of these assets represent.

Also, the briefing note does not detail the depreciation in value of Central Library, Edinburgh itself, let alone the loss of its natural lighting (reduced by as much as 82%, see https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjZmbDYr9bgAhUID2MBHcAoBbUQFjAAegQIBBAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.edinburgh.gov.uk%2Fdownload%2Fmeetings%2Fid%2F57145%2Fitem_716_-_daylight_impact_assessment_central_library&usg=AOvVaw1KV2-1YCtNmQEQEWInxYY6 x) as well as the loss of the land to its west, long considered to be for its setting and future expansion needs.

The assets in question comprise: 11-15 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2HE; Cowgatehead Church, 16-26 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX; and, the so-called Cowgate gap site, located on the north side of the Cowgate, incorporating Pollock’s Close, 28 Cowgate on the west to McConnachie’s Close, 44 Cowgate on the east, and delineated to the north by the backs of the buildings on Victoria Street including India Buildings,1-6 Victoria Street and its abutting neighbour, 11-15 Victoria Street, Edinburgh. Central Library, Edinburgh’s west elevation, designed to maximise daylighting, is located alongside McConnachie’s Close, 44 Cowgate, Edinburgh.


The Generic Briefing Note

Petition – Edinburgh Central Library v Virgin Hotel

Property and Facilities Management

Resources Directorate


1.       Introduction

1.1   On 1 February 2018, the Finance and Resources Committee considered a referral from the Education, Children and Families Committee in relation to a petition received regarding the Central Library

1.2   The Finance and Resources Committee was asked to consider requesting a detailed report on purchasing back land and buildings which formed part of the India Buildings hotel-led development.

1.3   The Committee agreed to note the petition and that a briefing note be prepared which outlined the current position and explain the steps that would have to be taken by the Council to action the request of the petition.


2.       Background

2.1  On 9 February 2017, the Council completed the sale of 11-15 Victoria Street and land fronting the Cowgate to Dreamvale Properties. The sale agreement was suspensive on the purchaser obtaining planning permission for a hotel development over a larger site that included the former India Street buildings [sic] on Victoria Street.

2.2 On 11 December 2018, the Education, Children and Families Committee considered a report by the Chief Executive setting out details of a petition which had been submitted in respect of the Edinburgh Central Library. The petition called on the Council to:

2.2.1   Request [sic, vs ‘require’] a detailed report on Edinburgh Central Library as a flagship cultural project of national and international [sic vs National/International] significance commensurate with existing professional advice to the Council and the Council’s own reports.

2.2.2   Require [sic vs ‘require’] a detailed report on purchasing back land and buildings which form part of the India Buildings hotel-led development, sold by the Council without a full consultation on the implications for the Central Library.


3.       Main Points

3.1   The Council took the decision to dispose of the assets as they were surplus to requirements and would not be needed for any future development plans for the Central Library. This formal position has not changed.

3.2   Should however the Council consider purchasing back the assets there are a number of issues to be considered:

3.2.1     In order for the Council to proceed, it would require the funds to do so and there would need to be a willing seller. This is not the case. Further, the asset is now part of a larger development and will be subject to contractual and legal transaction between the purchaser, the proposed hotel operator and funders.

3.2.2     To utilise CPO powers would, at the bear [sic] minimum, require the Council to have a planning consent that included the land that was to be acquired; funding to deliver the planning consent; and demonstrable evidence that the Council’s project is a better solution for the area balanced against the current consented scheme.

3.2.3     On the assumption that there was a willing seller, as well as the purchase price, they would require to be compensated for costs expended in progressing the development since the purchase was completed, including projected loss of profits due to being unable to complete the development, i.e. significantly more than what the Council sold it at and its current market value.


4.       Recommendations

4.1   Due to the above factors it is not considered that it is in the best interests of the Council to consider the purchase of the assets.


5.       Contact Details

Peter Watton, Head of Property and Facilities Management

E-mail: peter.watton@edinburgh.gov.uk

Tel: 0131 123 4567




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