Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Tree protester evicted from hotel site in Edinburgh's Grassmarket

Tree protest

A protester against a £65m hotel being built in Edinburgh's Grassmarket has left a tree he has been living in after a sheriff granted an eviction notice to developers.

A sheriff ruled the man was preventing work starting at the site.

The developers, Dreamvale Properties Ltd, brought the action against Simon Byrom at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Mr Byrom, a local resident, has been living in a tent on a wooden platform 20ft up the sycamore tree.

He had been in the tree for more than a week.

Work on the development had been due to begin on Monday.

The company was granted planning permission by City of Edinburgh Council in November.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "A protest at a construction site in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh has now concluded peacefully and all non-construction personnel have now left the area."

Andy Jansons, who is managing the development on behalf of Dreamvale Properties Ltd, said: "We're pleased but not surprised at today's outcome, and we can now move quickly to start work on one of Edinburgh's largest city centre regeneration projects.

"I respect everyone's right to a view on development proposals, but this demonstration has raised very serious safety issues for our staff, the protestors themselves and indeed for local residents.

"We are relieved that this can be brought to an end and that construction work can commence."

Site cleared

Appearing for the company, Kirstyn Burke told Sheriff Kenneth McGowan that Mr Byrom's actions meant contractors were unable to carry out work, resulting in significant financial impact.

She also pointed out the tree overhangs the pavement with potential danger to the public.

She said: "There is no reason why he should be on the property and he has a permanent address.

"The site will be cleared."

Mr Byrom claimed the council's decision to approve the sale of the land and grant planning permission was "a dereliction of democracy".

He claimed the development was opposed by ward councillors, the local MP, the local MSP, and the local community council.

The land taken over by the developers had been public land for "many, many years" and had been set aside for the benefit of the people of Edinburgh and for the future of the city library, he said.

The library, he added, needed to be renovated and extended. Those opposing the sale of the land, he said, had called for a judicial review at the Court of Session.

Sheriff McGowan pointed out to Mr Byrom that he had no legal right to occupy the land or the tree.

Mr Byrom replied he had a moral right and it had been "a dishonourable sale".

He complained the Old Town community was in a parlous state, as more and more properties were being turned into accommodation for tourists and students.

He asked the tree be left untouched until the result of a judicial review.

Sheriff McGowan told Mr Byrom the developers had a valid deed.

As for the judicial review, Sheriff McGowan told him he could say nothing about that or its outcome.

The development includes a bar, restaurant, cafe, retail and commercial units.

The 19th Century A-listed India Buildings is a part of the planned redevelopment.

The B-listed Cowgatehead Church and a C-listed building are also part of the plans.

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