Bid to build townhouses in a historic walled garden withdrawn

Some of the Friends of Granton Walled Castle members
Some of the Friends of Granton Walled Castle members
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DEVELOPERS behind controversial plans to build luxury townhouses in a historic walled garden have withdrawn their application.

Originally lodged in 2003, the proposals would have seen 17 new houses built on the medieval grounds of Granton Castle Walled Garden, which are thought to be more than 500 years old.

But the scheme has now been cancelled in a surprise move branded a “breakthrough” by community groups seeking to restore the north Edinburgh garden for public use.

Developer Waterfront Edinburgh – a subsidiary of the council-owned EDI Ltd – confirmed the decision but said the site was still earmarked for future housing.

Waterfront said it remained “committed” to the regeneration of Granton and would be submitting a new application.

But Kirsty Sutherland, chairwoman of the Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden – which wants to retain the feature – said the decision was a “minor victory” for residents and campaigners.

She said: “It feels like a real breakthrough just to get them to finally withdraw this application, as that puts us on a level playing field.”

She revealed the Friends had a “raft of plans” for the ancient site, including opening it free-of-charge to locals, and would continue to oppose efforts to build housing on it.

A statement on the group’s Facebook page read: “A big thank-you to everyone who has helped so far, giving their time and energy, and showing their support. Next step will be to put in a new door and path this spring hopefully, [and] to open the garden after ten years. A lot of work, but we are ready!”

The walled garden is believed to date from as far back as the 15th century, when it was the working garden serving the nearby Granton Castle, which was demolished in 1929.

Despite the castle’s demise, the garden continued to be put to a variety of uses and in recent decades was cultivated as a market garden. Now set in the heart of Granton’s industrialised waterfront, few residents have seen inside its walls and the overgrown tangle of flowers, fruit trees and old glasshouses therein.

In 2003, the land was bought over by EDI and an initial planning application for 17 homes lodged, before the economic crash stalled the proposals – with the scheme completely withdrawn on Friday.

The area around the walled garden is thought to be where the English army landed in 1544 to fight the Scots after they reneged on an agreement to marry Mary Queen of Scots and Henry VIII’s son Edward VI, the so-called Rough Wooing.

Eric Adair, operations and finance director at EDI, said: “We can confirm our planning application to deliver a residential scheme at the Walled Garden site in Granton has been withdrawn.

“Although the scheme received a Minded to Grant decision back in 2004, the historic nature of this application has meant that the residential layout of the plans no longer reflects what is needed to support the current housing market.

“The EDI Group remains committed to the regeneration of Granton and it is our intention to develop the Walled Garden site for housing and submit a new planning application.

“We will now consider the most appropriate options for progressing a revised application for the site and will continue to work closely with the community as part of this process.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com