The Grange Association has submitted this objection to 21/00331/LBC. The background and history are complicated and we have endeavoured to explain the position as follows:
Planning application 18/02719/FUL was considered at the meeting of the Development Management Sub-Committee (DMSC) on 6 February 2019. This included a proposal for the mortuary chapel to contain two residential flats, one on each of the ground floor and the first floor. Objectors considered that this proposal would threaten the long-term protection of the murals and unduly restrict public access to them. On a split vote of the Councillors present, the decision was taken to grant planning permission for the main site but with conditions including:
- ……..the proposed change of use of the mortuary chapel and subsequent alterations to the mortuary chapel are not approved;
- …....continue consideration of the application for Listed Building Consent relating to the Mortuary Chapel building for a period of three months to allow further discussions to take place with the applicants on the long-term preservation of the Phoebe Traquair Murals and use of the Mortuary Chapel.
The alterations to the mortuary chapel are the subject of Listed Building Consent application 18/02725/LBC which remains “Awaiting Decision”, notwithstanding that more than two years have passed since the DMSC meeting which mandated that the proposals be resolved within “three months”.
The planning report to the DMSC of 6 February 2019 acknowledged the objections from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to the plans for the mortuary chapel, including HES’s proposed amendment:
- The proposed conversion of the building should, in our view, be reconfigured from two down to one residential unit that would occupy part of the building. This would allow space for additional support accommodation which would link through the existing doorway to the chapel. To protect the chapel, any revised proposal must ensure that the room space above it is kept free of water supply pipes, drainage or wet central heating pipework.
While the onus is on the developer to amend the proposals to allow application 18/02725/LBC to be granted, we consider that the HES proposal forms a good basis for acceptable amendments that would allow the murals to be preserved and made available for public access, with space for interpretation on the ground floor. We can see no good reason for the delay in proposing an amended design for the mortuary chapel and we are concerned that there is insufficient leverage on the developer to amend the proposals and to refurbish the chapel in a form that will allow public access to the murals and for the day-to-day management of the chapel then to be passed to a suitable amenity body. There remains a risk that the chapel is simply abandoned in its present state, with the delay in approving 18/02725/LBC cited as an excuse.
The official letter granting planning permission under 18/02719/FUL for the main site was not issued until 3 August 2020 and it included eight conditions, of which the final two (which have not been discharged) are:
7. Details of a management agreement relating to the Mortuary Chapel to allow continued public access by prior arrangement to the mortuary chamber containing the Traquair Murals shall be submitted to and approved by the Council, as planning authority, prior to the occupation of the residential units forming part of the converted mortuary chapel building. Public access will be afforded as reasonably practical thereafter (taking cognisance of the status of the site as a building site and any necessary health and safety requirements).
8. The care and protection of the murals in the RHSC Mortuary Chapel Building, before, during and after building works shall be carried out in accordance with the supplementary addendum report "RHSC Mortuary Chapel (Edin.) - Phoebe Traquair Murals" dated 27 July 2018.
The obligation on the developer to make public access available for the murals (condition 7 of 18/02719/FUL) must be enforced in a timely manner. The absence of an acceptable amendment to 18/02725/LBC for the internal redevelopment of the mortuary chapel must not be allowed to create a protracted hiatus in the work to restore the murals and provide public access.
The representations from other community bodies are consistent with our position:
- At a meeting of the Marchmont & Sciennes Community Council on 24 February 2021, this position paper was agreed.
- The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland has submitted this objection to 21/00331/LBC.