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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 20:39 GMT
Old Town's revamp a step closer
Caltongate hotel (artist's impression)
Plans for Caltongate would transform the area
Councillors in Edinburgh have approved major elements of the controversial 300m Caltongate complex in the historic heart of the capital.

A luxury hotel and an office complex have got the go-ahead and developers look set to be allowed to build 200 homes plus shops, restaurants and bars.

Opponents claim the development will ruin the character of the area.

The project will now progress to Scottish Ministers, who will make the final decision.

A small group of protesters had gathered outside the city chambers for the start of the planning committee meeting on Wednesday.

Our vision is for Edinburgh to be northern Europe's most successful and sustainable city-region by 2015
Jenny Dawe
Edinburgh Council leader

Jim Lowrie, convenor of Edinburgh Council's planning committee said: "The committee was minded to approve the majority of applications put forward for the Caltongate site at Wednesday's meeting.

"Crucially, the five star hotel, which is the cornerstone of the development, and the square were approved.

"This site occupies a location of strategic importance within the city centre.

"Redevelopment will not only strengthen the residential population and address the needs of the local community, but creates the opportunity to introduce a variety of a new uses and activities into the city centre."

Historic street

Edinburgh Council leader Jenny Dawe said: "Our vision is for Edinburgh to be northern Europe's most successful and sustainable city-region by 2015.

"The built environment has an important role to play in supporting this aspiration."

Officials from the company behind the Caltongate project, Mountgrange, believe the 300m development would create 2,700 jobs.

The majority of the planning committee supported the proposed hotel, which will include a banqueting room, conferencing suite, restaurant, bar and leisure spa facilities.

It has been estimated that the complex would generate at least 6m for retailers in the area.

Alongside the hotel and office complex, Mountgrange plans to construct more than 200 homes and a new arts quarter, which would include a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants.

Carbon footprint

However, contentious proposals to demolish all but the facade of historic Canongate tenements were put on hold, and Mountgrange was asked to look at ways of retaining the buildings for affordable housing.

The application for the site was the second by the developer, which pulled the earlier plans following heritage and community concerns over the loss of flats on the Royal Mile.

It had proposed to demolish 12 flats on the Royal Mile to make way for a road into the site but it later amended the plans to lose seven council flats by making an archway through the tenements instead of knocking down the whole block.

Only the bottom two floors of flats will be lost and the tenement front will be retained to keep the same look of the historic street.

A 3m renewable energy system, which will be one of the largest of its type in the UK, was earlier given the go-ahead at the site.

SEE ALSO
Old Town development to be green
20 Jun 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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