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30/05/01 . By Chris Gray . The Independent . UK
Conan Doyle fans detect victory in the case of the childhood home
Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are on the verge of winning a battle to stop McDonald's building an outlet next to his childhood home. 30 May 2001
The author lived at Liberton Bank House in Edinburgh with his mother during the 1860s while his father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was institutionalised because he had epilepsy.
The Sherlock Holmes Society hope the cottage, which is derelict and stands next to a post-war shopping centre, can be turned into a small museum. They believe it will never be restored if the McDonald's outlet is built.
Planning officers at the City of Edinburgh Council are supporting them and have recommended councillors turn down the application when they meet today. Alan Henderson, the head of planning, says the takeaway would harm the setting of the cottage and the character of the area.
The cottage, which was also the home of the women's rights campaigner Mark Burton for 50 years, has been listed since McDonald's made its original application in July 1999. Mr Henderson said guidance from Historic Scotland on listed buildings stated that "no building of similar or greater bulk should be erected close to the main subject of listing".
Heather Owen, spokeswoman for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, said the recommendation was "excellent news". She said Doyle lived in the cottage for five years, until he was nine years old, and the period had a deep influence on him.
She said: "His mother insisted to her children that they had a noble lineage from an Irish aristocratic tradition, and that comes out in his writings, particularly the medieval tales. He had enormous admiration for his mother and the way she struggled to keep the family."
A McDonald's spokeswoman said when it submitted the original application there was no record of Doyle living there. She said later investigations showed he lodged there for two years.
She said that in the company's application, submitted with the shopping centre's owner, the outlet would be separated from the cottage by a small wall, and the restaurant design had been altered to ensure it blended with the area.
Even if today's decision goes as expected, McDonald's plans to appeal. The campaigners' victory at this stage is, as Holmes might have told Watson, elementary.