City police boxes raise £156k in sell-off

John McDougall has set up a doughnut bar in a former police box on Drumsheugh Gardens. Picture: Ian Georgeson
John McDougall has set up a doughnut bar in a former police box on Drumsheugh Gardens. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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They stand as a reminder of a bygone era and their original use has long been overtaken by modern advances.

But Edinburgh’s police boxes are set to serve the public for years to come – offering sweet treats and flowers rather than the support of a local bobby.

Deeming them obsolete, Police Scotland invited secret bids for its final batch of call boxes across the city in August.

The sale of the historic street furniture attracted a vast range of offers – with bids from £35,550 to just £450.

So far, £156,000 has been raised from the sale of 21 boxes, the proceeds of which will be pooled into resources for the national force.

The “mini police stations”, which are the last of 85 to be sold, will be reborn as coffee kiosks, ice-cream booths and even a mini florist.

Other proposed uses include an art space and advertising platform, however many projects remain in their early stages and require planning permission.

Borders-based organic ice-cream producer Over Langshaw Farm paid £35,550 to get its hands on a lucrative spot at West Bow in the Grassmarket.

The team is keeping the finer details under wraps, but is hopeful the venture will be popular.

Lucy Bergius, of Over Langshaw Farm, said: “We make farmhouse ice cream and sell at restaurants in Edinburgh. It’s in the 
pre-planning stage at the moment. We think it’s worth it.”

In contrast, a police box at Quality Street went for just £450. The new owner’s plans for the unit are not known.

Meanwhile, Jemma and Ben Gillespie, who run the Blue Bear cafe at Canonmills, are hoping to open a new business from their Marchmont Crescent box.

Mrs Gillespie, who did not want to reveal how much she paid, said: “We just got 
planning permission to turn it into a takeaway. We think it would be a great place for someone in the same position as we were – there are not too many overheads and it’s a good start in the market.”

Across the road, another box is going to be transformed into the Cornercopia flower stall. It has been bought by local woman Moira Ross, who hopes the mini venue can be used for crafts and community use.

On the other side of the city centre, John McDougall has been putting the 
finishing touches to his Drumsheugh Gardens doughnut bar.

The 44-year-old, who bought it from a private owner for £15,000 in October, said: “I got a deck chair, sat outside the police box and counted footfall for about a week before making an offer. I am really excited about it. The local community has been brilliant.”

Police Scotland is keeping hold of two boxes – one houses the “gas governor” at Craigmillar police station, while the other is at Ardmillan Terrace, Gorgie, and is virtually enclosed by public toilets.

A police spokeswoman said: “The variations in price are due to the location of the individual box and its potential commercial opportunity. The proceeds will be deployed elsewhere in the Police Scotland budget.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com