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Download: 121210 EDC 58 Craighouse Appraisal
Project data
Project Reference Craighouse
Details Masterplan, residential new build and redevelopment of historic buildings for residential use.
Location Edinburgh
Use Type Housing
Client/Developer Craighouse Partnership
Lead Designers Oberlanders Architects
Planning Authority Edinburgh City Council
Planning Ref Full Planning Application
Issue Date 10/12/2012

1.00 Introduction

[This summarises project status and background information that was indicated to A&DS prior to the workshop or clarified by the parties during the workshop. In the event that any of the statements made in this introduction are considered incorrect A&DS should be advised and the report will be amended.]

1.01 The project is classified by A&DS as a Locally Significant Project under the Design Forum programme. The proposals have been through a number of significant design iterations since first referred to Design Forum jointly by the developer and the by City of Edinburgh Council on 12 June 2012. A&DS have previously visited the site and run three Forums with the Project Team on 12th June, 18th June and 1st August 2012 in conjunction with City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

1.02 The proposals for Craighouse were submitted to City of Edinburgh Council in a detailed planning application on 12th November.

1.03 The Craighouse Partnership propose a major residential regeneration of the Napier Craighouse Campus. The site is 21 hectares at the prominent wooded hilltop of Craiglochart, one of Edinburgh’s 7 hills. A group of significant listed building includes Arthur Sydney Mitchell Royal Edinburgh Asylum [1889-94] and the 16th Century manor house– Old Craig. The open space and woodland on the site, whilst remaining in private ownership, has been accessible to local residents since sale of the site to Napier University by the NHS in 1992. 66 apartments are intended as conversions of the original series of detached buildings, formerly a hydropathic hotel, an asylum, a hospital and most recently a campus of Napier University.

1.04 Commercial appraisal has established a requirement for enabling development in the form of new housing development on the site ‘able to contribute financially to the longterm upkeep of the [listed] buildings and landscape’. This proposed new build enabling development has become the most significant and carefully considered facet of the proposals at the A&DS Design Forums.

Numbers of units have varied as follows:

  • June 2012 62 conversions + 138 new build 200
  • November 2012 66 conversions + 87 new build 153

1.05 It is beyond the scope of A&DS’s role to comment on the commercial considerations governing the scale of enabling development. However the comments made at workshops and in this report are intended to be pertinent to the consideration of the setting of the listed buildings and the sensitivities involved in the locating of new buildings in the context of the local and wider landscapes affected.

2.00 Workshop Scope

[This section of the report sets out the intended purpose of the workshop as agreed prior to the workshop or as adjusted, by common consent, during the course of the workshop.]

2.01 This final workshop has been programmed to allow a further appraisal of the project at the point of submission of the planning application. An earlier workshop on 1st August had concluded that the project had achieved an A&DS appraisal of category 3 i.e. “with potential but unsupported”.

2.02 The discussion topics for the Appraisal Forum were derived from the outstanding issues identified at workshop 3, i.e. the issues that had previously precluded support for the design proposals by A&DS. The aim of the workshop was to review the design development of the proposals, relative to the points previously raised, recorded and discussed and to carry out an updated appraisal on this basis.

2.03 At the outset of the workshop City of Edinburgh Council described their recent meeting, discussions and correspondence with the design and project team. These revolved around analysis of the potential impacts of development, arising from analysis of a matrix of ‘Potential Development Impact Areas’ by Wardell Armstrong, see appended plan. This background was explained to A&DS during the workshop by both the council and the design team and it has informed the A&DS panel.

3.00 Workshop Outcomes

[This section of the report summarises the appraisal of A&DS arising from
discussion at the workshop and subsequently consolidated in order to provide a clear statement of appraisal. The appraisal is based on the extent of information provided at the design forum. The appendix includes extracts of the material presented.]

The outcomes of the workshop are reported under the subject headings of the earlier advice notes.

3.01 A wider vision, linking all elements and integrating with the city-wide and landscape setting.

Advice note 1, point 1 stated:
“A spatial vision should be fully developed beyond the Kim Wilkie masterplan, and should involve an integrated design-team approach to the overall site. This needs to include an approach to designing within the highly significant topography of the site, to respond to the distinctive way the historic buildings respond to their setting, and to interact with the wider urban and landscape settings of city and hilltop/moorland. The site is one of the seven hills of Edinburgh, visible city-wide whilst also visually linked to the open landscape seen to the south.”

3.01.1 A significant advancement was evident, as compared to the early work seen at initial A&DS workshops, especially in the quality of the overall vision, integration into the wider city-wide landscape and a break from the earlier, more internalised handling of the site.

3.01.2 A&DS welcome the intent to save the listed buildings and to put them to new use. The Forum workshops have looked in detail at the constituent parts of the new build propositions to help improve the way the interaction with the historic buildings, the setting and public access have been handled, rather than to review the principle of development.

3.02 Handling of proposed housing at the southern edge at the former orchard

Since the initial workshop the proposals have been adjusted to remove housing at the orchard.

3.03 Handling of housing between Old Craig, the Craighouse Road gateway [and at the east perimeter].

A&DS advice note 2, item 3 stated:

  • “A double line of trees separating the housing from the slope above was considered incompatible with preserving the larger view north”.

A&DS advice note 3, item 3, stated:

  • “The relationship of the re-positioned avenue and new buildings was supported as an improvement with the terraced format allowing viewsthrough from the park above and a more convincing, though not yet resolved, handling of private garden exposure to the park”
  • “The panel had insufficient opportunity to explore the question of scale and density in this area, with reservations therefore being unresolved.”

3.03.1 Whilst generally acknowledging the development of proposals in this area we remain concerned that the handling of terrace end houses adjoining the park is unconvincing. The ‘rotated’ end houses continue to appear random in this context. A more structured and bolder park edge was encouraged, reliant more on earth modelling, for example, rather than screen planting or ‘organic’ geometry.

3.03.2 The walled enclosure of back gardens at Regent Terrace towards Regent Gardens was cited by SNH as a relevant example and precedent of a built edge to a park in a similar context on another of Edinburgh’s 7 hills.

3.03.3 In relation to housing at the east edge of the park [landscape matrix area 2]

Previous A&DS advice note 3, item 6 stated:

  • The theme of building into or at the woodland edge needs to be consistently handled, both in terms of the response to the mature woodland, and there being a correspondence between the strategies of the two architects involved.
  • The introduction of extensive new tree planting around the main park was not supported since it undermines the simplicity of character of the open grass lawn and the bigger edge elements which are already there. More trees would also prevent beneficial overlooking and views of the park by adjoining houses.
  • Whilst the intent to locate buildings on the eastern boundary was thought worthy of exploration, the treatment as demonstrated was not supported due to an uncomfortable relationship of rear gardens backing onto the park.

3.03.4 The revised proposal needs modification from its present form since it exacerbates the issues previously advised. Concerns remain about further tree planting shading the new housing, about the inefficient duplication of roads, paths and new planting encroaching unnecessarily into the park, reducing public parkland, creating unusable woodland and the need for complex handling of privacy issues due to back gardens overlooked from the park.

3.03.5 This could be addressed by treating the new housing as a mirror of the relationship of the existing villas Bevan and Southcraig that face onto the park.There are few or no trees intervening between the villas and the park at the west edge. Houses at the east edge could be turned 180o to face and overlook the park, allowing them to be set lower down and closer in to the existing trees. The access route would form the park edge and, mirroring the Bevan and Southcraig relationship there could be a minimum of new tree planting. Back gardens could be re-configured and/or minimised to allow these to be integrated with the existing mature boundary trees. Such an alternate layout was considered likely to be more efficient, less wasteful and to minimise the footprint of new development and tree planting.

3.03.6 If an imaginative solution cannot be found that absorbs the complexities of building at the east edge, then proposing housing here may prove incompatible with the sensitivities of location.

3.03.7 A further related point was raised in relation to the proposed park entrance adjoining Craighouse Lodge. As proposed, the key public entrance route into the park does not form a strong gateway. The public experience entering the site from Craighouse Lodge should be to see the open space straight away. This would be improved if the housing at the east were pulled back as suggested at the workshop, see 3.03.5 above, or omitted as intimated in 3.03.6.

3.04 Handling of new buildings and spaces proposed around New Craig and Queens Craig.
A&DS advice note 3, item 4 stated:

  • In principle the panel considered that the Queens Craig housing proposal could work. The proposal to retain the better mature trees was welcomed, with Cambridge Accordia housing a helpful precedent for handling proximity to mature trees. The principle of preserving building heights below tree canopy is important, as is the avoidance of an overly large gap in the tree canopy as seen in distant views.
  • Reservations to do with angled houses at Queens Craig and apparently random geometry in plan.
  • Reservation that, when properly tested, the tree clearing required for construction of roads and houses may become larger than currently shown.

3.04.1 The housing proposed at the existing boiler house [North Craig] is supported as before.

3.04.2 The layout and geometry issues south of both buildings are much more convincingly handled than before and address earlier advice. The introduction of terraced houses in place of apartments has eased car parking numbers. The retention of existing mature trees is welcome, as is the creation of defined courtyard spaces and the move towards a collegiate character. All are positive responses to discussions at earlier workshops. Geometries are much simpler and the proposals generally much more convincing. A&DS therefore support the formation of perimeter buildings in the two distinct groupings relating to New Craig and Queens Craig as proposed, [i.e. including housing at landscape matrix areas 8, 9 and 11]. This protects existing mature trees through not building at area 10 whilst building within clearings in poorer re-growth trees and carefully handling level changes and building height as established with all parties at workshops 1 and 2.

3.04.3 The design of the two new courtyard spaces at Queens Craig and New Craig could be simpler and more clearly articulated. Greater clarity of design would help, particularly whether the courtyards are being handled as two distinct spaces or as part of a continuous landscape. Consistent and more complete plans, sections and 3D imagery would assist, however we recognise that considerable work has been done to explore levels, accesses and building scale in these areas to make a sensitive integration of the new built form. This exploration is more evident in section details, building modelling and visualisations from the distant views than in landscape plans or close-up visualisations. An extra level of detail in the design, detailed handling and imagery of the spaces created would help demonstrate and develop the approach taken to the handling of the landscape design in these areas.

3.05 Handling formal compositional interactions between the form/scale/massing of the historic buildings and the form/scale/massing of those new buildings that are proposed nearby.

3.05.1 The handling of geometry in the proposed stand-alone buildings [Plot 8 Duncan and Plot 10 Clouston Villa] now follow the pattern and alignment of Bevan and South Craig that form the west edge to the park and the wider landscape, a positive response to earlier comments by A&DS.

3.05.2 The Duncan building is unconvincing elevationally, however this could be addressed.

3.05.3 The visibility of the proposed Plot 10 – Clouston Villa was discussed. This adopts the site of the LRC building at the southwest apex. It was evident from the views circulated during the workshop that whilst the building may be visible from Blackford hill it was scaled such that it would not encroach on the skyline. The massing of the building has clearly responded positively to earlier comments by A&DS [18/06/12 – item 9]. Our advice encouraged “ A building language…inspired by the horizontal string courses, the horizontality of terraces and paths to the existing buildings and the contrasting vertical spires, turrets and elements of the historic buildings.” However the handling of the scale and visibility of the building remains a sensitive matter in this location and the apex in particular will need to be considered further.

3.06 Handling of private and public realm interfaces generally.
Advice note 3, point 6 stated:

  • A logic is beginning to emerge of houses backing into trees and fronting onto common gardens and parkland. If the trees at Queens Craig are crown lifted then new houses here could interact with the common gardens created between new and old.
  • Further exploration is required of the handling of private garden and amenity space serving the existing buildings that are to be converted.

3.06.1 There has been a significant development of the proposals to tackle these issues which are now generally much better handled, with the positive move towards a sheltered collegiate character for residential areas that are further away from the public park edge.

3.06.2 Overall, we have cautioned against an overly segregated and exclusive treatment of the park and public areas in favour of good interaction between park and houses and a high quality of public experience in the park.

3.07 Handling lighting and the new infrastructure of roads and footpaths given the exposed hilltop site.
Advice note 2, point 7 stated “It was suggested that the exposure of lighting and the new infrastructure of roads and footpaths be considered to minimise interventions that alter the character of the exposed hilltop site. There is a need to work with the authorities to keep these interventions subtle, discreet and minimal.”

3.07.1 Clearly there has been positive work done in this respect both to re-configure the layout and to consider means of incorporating low level and discreet lighting. This needs to be developed in conjunction with the councils roads officers.

3.08 Means of minimising the quantum of enabling development

3.08.1 Commercial appraisals have been developed and independently analysed by the council. As noted in the introduction it is beyond the scope of A&DS’s role to comment on the required scale of enabling development.

3.08.2 Previous advice notes have suggested that the Listed building conversions might be more efficient, however the points made by the team at the workshop in this respect and the rationale for sub-division are acknowledged, with any further comment requiring detailed knowledge of appraisal values.

3.08.3 It has been suggested at an earlier workshop that landscape management costs might be partially attributed to the public use of the site to reduce the quantum of residents contributions required and thereby the required quantum of enabling development. In advice note 3, item 8 we also noted “ the impact of policy for affordable housing provision given the additional housing numbers that are a consequence of raising the sums required. Movement in any of these areas should, we would suggest, be directly applied to reducing the extent of required new build development.” The proposal to offer parkland areas of the site for public ownership and the concurrent reduction in proposed unit numbers appear to be positive moves in this direction.

3.09 Strategy guiding architectural language/responses, landscape elements/responses and materials chosen.

3.09.1 There seemed to be much more energy in the handling of materials. The brick choice and horizontal bands seemed to be working, with the exception of the detailed handling of the Duncan building, see above.

3.09.2 The detail design work, for example of the proposed plot 10 Clouston villa, needs to work hard to prevent the intended material contrasts being superficial differences only. It will be important to maintain a contrast between glassiness then the solidity of masonry element using deep reveals and similar techniques.

4.00 Summary of comments

[This section of the report summarises the appraisal and the overall rating given for design quality at the conclusion of the Design Forum process.]

4.01 An appraisal was carried out by A&DS staff and panellists following the workshop, based on the comments made. The project was rated as category 2 – well considered – supported, subject to the amendments discussed and noted below.

4.02 A&DS support the majority of the proposals and the overall vision now achieved. Our support anticipates further progress in some specific areas in the direction now established. Therefore this support assumes that amendments will be made in the following specific areas:

  • Revised layout and potentially extent of the East housing [Old Craighouse Grove]
  • Adjusted extent / layout of end terraces houses at the Old Craig car park site [Old Craig Court], including consideration of a more structured terrace/park interface.
  • A redesigned, more direct and stronger gateway and route into the park from Craighouse Lodge
  • Developing the detailing of the public realm of the ‘collegiate’ courtyards between buildings.
  • Avoiding an overly exclusive approach to private boundaries in favour of the more subtle collegiate approach now emerging.
  • Minimising the extent of new tree planting around the new park as raised at this last and at earlier workshops [see 3.04]
  • Review of the architecture of Duncan
  • Development of the modelling of both hilltop buildings


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