In the last edition of the Angel, we covered the scandal that just 17% of housing to be built in the Maryhill Locks development will be for social housing. An investigation by the Burgh Angel can now reveal that a key member of the Board of the city council body leading the Locks development stepped down from the leadership of scandal hit Edinburgh development body EDI Group, just months before the firm went bankrupt.
Ian Wall, who was CEO of the part council owned firm for twenty years is on the Board of the GHA, and a number of other prominent Boards besides. The connection to EDI Group however is significant, as concerns grow about the management of the Maryhill Locks development, given that so few of the homes will be for social rent. Ian Wall also sits on the Board of the Scottish Regeneration Forum, the Scottish Council for Industry and Development, and he is a trustee of Shelter, however he is described by the GHA as “the former Chief Executive of the EDI Group and of PARK [sic], the Urban Regeneration Company for Craigmillar in Edinburgh.” This is clearly seen by the GHA as his most important former role.
Stepping down in April 2008, Mr Wall said: “I am very proud of the track record of EDI over the last two decades and the contribution we have been able to make to the changing face of the city through our developments.” The firm made a pre-tax loss in 2008 of £5.8million. This was followed by a loss of £7.8million in 2009.
EDI Group, and it’s subsidiaries had to approach Edinburgh City Council for a £62 million bailout in 2009. What is even more significant and calls into question the leadership of the Locks project is that Ian Wall’s troubled firm actually had to sell off 90% of its assets to Edinburgh City Council and sack more than half of its staff to become solvent. Mr Wall’s ‘retirement’ may have allowed him to avoid being blamed for the crisis in the firm, but the fact that 90% of the firm’s investments had to be sold off, at a huge loss, just to pay off debts, and the fact that he led the firm for the previous 20 years when those debts were racked up prompts serious questions.
Then there is the question of what EDI Group is doing in Craigmillar itself. Much social housing in the area has been demolished, even though Edinburgh is the grip of a huge social housing crisis, which is even worse than that seen in Glasgow. Homeless people with every right to social housing are routinely turned away because so little social housing remains. Nowhere is that process more stark than in Craigmillar, where the process has been called “gentrification” and “degeneration”, and where council funded community bodies have been the subject of court action over mismanagement, and bitter disputes have emerged over local “cabals” controlling key community assets.
Elsewhere in the city these processes spearheaded by EDI Group have become so entrenched that local residents in the “Davidsons Mains Silverknows Association” who live in new build private homes in Muirhouse have begun campaigning to see a fence built across a public footpath, because people who live in neighbouring council houses use the footpath, and the owners see the tenants as a threat and source of crime. This is a shocking attitude to take, but it is one that has been fostered by the drive to make social housing ever more stigmatised in the drive to demolish it.
Back in Maryhill, questions first emerged about the leadership of the Maryhill Locks project after censored documents passed to the Angel made clear that the land for the development had been given away, for free, to private developers. This land is believed to be worth around £100million – that is some gift. Hundreds of social homes were demolished to make way for the development. The Scottish Government confirmed to the Angel that of the 800 or so homes to be built, just 141 would be for social rent.