Charlotte Square restoration plans put on hold

Sisters Christie and Robyn Blackie, 11 and 8, enjoy the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Sisters Christie and Robyn Blackie, 11 and 8, enjoy the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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COUNCIL leaders have axed a £1 million investment aimed at restoring the Georgian grandeur of Charlotte Square amid a disagreement over funding with a developer.

Plans were unveiled in 2012 which would have seen the council working with Corran Properties on a bid to transform the landmark through pavement expansion, reduced traffic flows, revamped lighting and the introduction of cycle areas.

The council agreed to put up £1m of the estimated development cost on the understanding that the remaining funds would be provided by Corran, which is acting for Bermuda-based property investor Fordell Estates.

But it has emerged the cash has been withdrawn as city leaders admitted there was “no immediate prospect of the project proceeding”, adding that they had yet to receive confirmation of Corran’s share and when it would be released.

They will instead redirect the sum towards providing memorials for families affected by the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal, funding a major revamp of Saughton Park and building a new bridge at 
Niddrie Burn.

However, Corran bosses insisted that there had never been a finalised agreement on how much they and the council would pay, and said they hoped to be able to progress the plans in future.

Opposition figures voiced disappointment at news that the improvements had stalled.

Councillor Joanna Mowat, Conservative member for the city centre, said: “The whole point was to let the Georgian architecture sing as one of Europe’s most perfect Georgian squares and it’s disappointing that, at this time, it appears it will not go forward.”

The 2012 proposals initially won the backing of a string of local property owners and businesses. Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray was among supporters, with Edinburgh International Book Festival organisers saying the plans would provide them with “new opportunities” to grow.

And Corran bosses said the blueprints would reverse the increase in vehicle use around the square since the 1960s, which they argued had been “detrimental” to pedestrians.

It was not expected that the plans would affect the gardens in Charlotte Square, which would remain closed off to the public throughout the year, apart from during the book festival.

A spokeswoman for Corran said: “Whilst we understand the council’s position, we are disappointed plans for the improvement to the public realm within Charlotte Square will not proceed at this time.

“However, this project remains a long-term ambition for us and we will continue to work with the council to look at how the significant investment required can be found.

“It is four years since the proposals and costs were first devised and put forward, and it is still everyone’s hope that proposals can be revisited and reinstated in the future.”

City leaders said they remained committed to achieving improvements at the square and stressed that reallocating the £1m would help them 
accelerate other schemes.

A council spokeswoman said: “Significant funding has been locked up in the Charlotte Square project, while at the same time a number of higher priority projects do not have the funding to progress.

“However, the council is likely to invest in roads and footways at Charlotte Square in the future, and would be keen to work with developers on any further improvements.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com