Campaigners hit back over Boroughmuir arts hub plan

Malcolm Fraser addresses the meeting at Boroughmuir High. Picture: Greg Macvean
Malcolm Fraser addresses the meeting at Boroughmuir High. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Campaigners behind 
ambitious plans for a major new cultural hub have vowed to fight on after their multi-million pound bid was trumped by a housing developer.

The Out of the Blue Trust has put forward a £6.2m offer to transform Boroughmuir High School into a thriving arts space when it moves to a new school building in Fountainbridge.

But yesterday it emerged city chiefs are understood to have recommended accepting a larger, £14.5m offer from Cala Homes to convert the B-listed structure into 100 flats instead.

Now community groups have launched fresh efforts to have their bid accepted by planning officials, urging locals to lobby individual councillors and throw their weight behind a petition calling for the historic building to “remain in public hands for the benefit of all”.

A special Friends of Out of the Blue Viewforth Arts and Business group has also been set up to spearhead the drive.

At a packed meeting at Boroughmuir High to discuss the building’s future last night, architect Malcolm Fraser – who is working with Out of the Blue to realise its plans – told more than 100 residents the proposals were “fully costed and worked out”.

He said the arts hub would push creativity and business into the heart of the community, as well as ensuring the building would continue to play an important part in the local area well into the future.

He also unveiled proposals to launch a “creative schools partnership” in the building – allowing schools such as James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir access to facilities and use space for sixth form and Gaelic teaching.

He added: “There are extremely important reasons to recommend this bid. We want to see this building reused and loved – and in the heart of our community.”

Mr Fraser pointed to the planned demolition of Edinburgh Palette, a studio and exhibition space in London Road that is set to be replaced by housing.

“All that creative activity currently doesn’t have a place to go, and it’s the sort of thing we would love to see coming to this building,” he said.

Residents also voiced concerns that housing density in the area was already high.

The old Boroughmuir High site is the largest building the council has ever sold off, with £5m from the sale set to be pumped back into the school’s replacement campus on the old Fountain Brewery grounds.

The council will decide which bid to accept at a meeting of the finance and resources committee on May 13.

Rob Hoon, finance manager at Out of the Blue, said: “The biggest positive in what we are suggesting is participation. There’s a blueprint for this and there’s a shape, and from that shape great things can happen.”

Councillor Melanie Main insisted the arts hub would “bring something very, very special” to the community, adding: “Let’s not sell the family silver – once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com