While the trees were being cut down, boards appeared on the railings around the Park Quadrant site and some alleged that corruption was behind what was going on. PAWH as an organisation would distance itself from such statements.
However, we have very little difficulty in understanding individuals who are driven to this conclusion for want of other logical explanation for what has taken place so far:
Expresso and the Council and City Property seem to have assumed that planning permission will be forthcoming even before the application has been submitted. Excessive tree removal is the most striking example but, six months ago, they applied to fell ALL the trees on the site. The reason given, that this was necessary for site investigation, just does not make sense as not one of four previous proposals which went as far as planning applications being lodged required any tree removal for site investigation. Capped boreholes and unfilled trial pits are still visible as evidence of these earlier investigations. What is so different about Expresso’s investigations that they require such extensive tree removal? It is very difficult to see how some of the trees removed would even facilitate any known method of site investigation.
The bidding and disposal processes for the site appear to have been undertaken with absolutely no transparency. There have been numerous FoI requests to City Property and the Council and, in each case, the responses have been provided on the 19th working day, late in the afternoon and, in most cases, have amounted to a refusal to provide the information requested. These have led to reviews which have been handled in the same manner and ultimately the Scottish Information Commissioner has had to extract the information for us. The scoring provided contradicts itself in different versions and Expresso, who came fourth equal in the first round of design scoring, went on to score significantly higher than the other bidders in the second round, despite not being the preferred bidder in the view of the ‘design panel’ (as confirmed by several design panel members). City Property refuse to reveal who made the final scoring decisions and on what basis. The Executive Committee were then misled last May into believing that the design panel had favoured Expresso’s design. Note the two highest scoring designs in round one were excluded for not offering enough money (despite claims that design was predominant) and then City Property let the final bidders alter their designs and financial offers during phase two of the process. Now, months later Expresso are proposing a completely different design to the one scored during the tendering process.
More recently, the Council’s Executive Committee agreed in February to reduce the sale price of the site by £500K due to a ‘reduction in the developable area’. Expresso claimed that they didn’t want to build on the footpath due to ‘concerns about its loss from the local community’. Then neighbours were told just before trees were felled that it was because of concern over the structural integrity of the exposed gable of Park Quadrant. One (or perhaps both) of these explanations must be wrong. Other possible reasons might be: a) There are windows on the existing Park Quadrant gable end which would need ‘bought out’ b) there is a buried high voltage power cable under the path c) building right up to the existing gable has serious structural challenges due to the small shallow foundations (mere ‘strip footings’) d) leaving a gap could save Expresso £1m or more in costs e) the ‘stopping up order’ on the footpath was confirmed all of 16 years ago and the Council may be concerned that the right of way may have re-established itself. So, the developer gets an 8% reduction in price for about 2% reduction in area and saves themselves a huge amount of money and hassle. The Executive Committee also agreed to let them buy out their ‘excess profit’ clause for only £400k. So each of the 98 flats only needs to sell for £4081 more than predicted for them to be laughing all the way to the bank. The minutes from this meeting suggest that nobody even questioned these staggeringly poor recommendations by DRS and they were approved by the Committee.
Had the Council been trying, they could hardly have done more to court allegations of impropriety!