About the Area

Caltongate is a £300million development project in Edinburgh Old Town between the Royal Mile and East Market Street. It proposes the construction, at the open site of the former New Street Bus Station, of a 200-bed 5 star hotel and conference centre, an arts quarter with a live music venue with capacity for 1500, a new public square, offices, and 200 new homes. A quarter of the residential homes will be "affordable housing."

It is probably the largest development in the Old Town's history. As might be expected, a project of this size has polarised public opinion between those who have welcomed the jobs and the economic benefits of revitalising a large, unused part of the city, while critics have said the project has been rushed through and pays scant regard for the heritage values of the area.

Mountgrange Capital Plc's "regeneration programme" received approval in principle from the City of Edinburgh on 5th October 2006, but its grand design has come in for some heavy criticism, notably from Edinburgh heritage bodies, because the project does not reflect the historic character of the Old Town.

Two listed buildings are earmarked for demolition - the Canongate Venture building and the Sailor's Ark building.

Also, a 1930s set of Canongate tenement flats, on the Royal Mile, would be demolished to make a broad footpath linking the Royal Mile with the new continental style piazza with mixed used buildings, restaurants, cafes, and luxury hotel. Mountgrange argues that the gap barely detracts from the classic view down the Royal Mile.

The chief criticism is that the modern project detracts from the historic character of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hundreds of thousands of visitors pass down the Royal Mile each year.

Green building

The Caltongate project will use a ground-source heating and cooling system, whereby heat is drawn through pipes deep in the ground in winter and during the warmer months heat is pumped back into the ground to cool the buildings. The developers say that this will provide 60% of the energy, and reduce 30% of carbon dioxide emissions.

While proponents of Caltongate say that increasing residential density in the heart of the city is good for the environment, because people don't have to commute, critics say that Caltongate is too focused on corporate business interests not residents.

Opponents of Mountgrange's masterplan have also raised questions about how pedestrian-friendly the project would be. In a letter responding to the Masterplan, the Cockburn Association wrote: "The existing Masterplan does not complement the historic pattern and scale of the Old Town. The proposed streets are not domestic in scale and the Masterplan paves the way for a car focused development."

Further information

The official site for Mountgrange's Caltongate project carries a video with a computer-generated fly-through of the completed scheme.

Cockburn Association
Edinburgh Civic Trust organisation.

Save Our Old Town - community site.