Friday, 24 February 2017

Moving William Younger

Town planners – dontcha just love them?   Keen on demolition, they  were back in the immediate post-war years. Houses, pubs and even breweries. The total and utter bastards.

Back in the early 1950’s Edinburgh city council had rather grand plans for redeveloping the Holyrood Palace end of the Royal Mile. Which was home to several breweries, including the Abbey and Holyrood breweries of William Younger.

There were two rival plans for the development, the Abercrombie plan which would remove all industry from the area, and the rather less drastic McCrae plan.

Breweries May Not be Moved
By ten votes to two Edinburgh Planning Committee decided yesterday to accept the principles of the MacRae plan, prepared by the former City Architect, Mr E. J. MacRae for the future development of the Canongate.

The essential difference between the MacRae plan and the Abercrombie plan for the area, which was also before the committee, is that the former plan makes no provision for the eventual removal of the breweries or other industry from the Canongate area.

The committee's recommendation will be submitted to a meeting of Edinburgh Town Council on July 26.

Outlining the Advisory Plan, Mr D. Plumstead, Planning Officer, said that Sir Patrick Abercrombie and he had considered that the Canongate was one of the two historical parts of the city which, at one time 200 years or so ago, were essentially residential communities. The Royal Mile was really a "national preservation" and it would be more in keeping with it if the Canongate were residential and not industrial.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

A look at an old map shows how surprisingly industrial this area of the old city was, with several other factories, in addition to the breweries, and a huge bus depot. They covered a considerable area, which was very tempting for the council.

Canongate around 1950

One concern about moving the breweries was their water supply. Breweries hadn’t clumped around Canongate randomly. They were there because of the presence of good quality brewing water which could be accessed by digging wells.

“To move the breweries would not be impossible so far as water was concerned. If the breweries were removed the Corporation would get 32 acres in the Canongate, which, if developed at a reasonable density, would accommodate 4000 people. It would be possible to build a block of luxury flats in the area, the revenue from which would help to pay any compensation in which the Corporation might be involved.

It would be possible to move the breweries one unit at a time. The buildings near Holyroodhouse could be moved first to a site in London Road and 200 people could be then accommodated in flats in the cleared area.

Although they had not got down to the details of the financial questions involved Mr Plumstead said it Was felt that as that Canongate was of national importance, it was very likely that the city would obtain considerable Government assistance if they decided to remove the breweries. It would be a most popular decision to remove the breweries to another area.

Bailie R. Bell — Popular with whom ?

Mr Plumstead — Popular with many people in the city. That is the impression Sir Patrick and I got.

If the breweries were to remain the Corporation would have to allow them to expand, and in that case they would have to reconsider the proposals of the Advisory Plan so far as the zoning of the centre of the city was concerned.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

32 acres is a lot of  land. Especially so centrally in the city. I had to smile when I saw the bit about luxury flats. Building luxury flats is such a 21st-century approach to redevelopment.

By “The buildings near Holyroodhouse” they must mean William Younger’s Abbey Brewery, which was almost the last thing on Canongate before Holyrood Palace.

Next we’ll learn where they proposed moving the breweries to.

1 comment:

halfmanhalfpint said...

The "huge bus depot" site is finally being redeveloped.

There was a huge stooshie about this, and some other inappropriate
developments in the city centre.
e.g. the new "Turd Quarter" (really St James Quarter).