Colonies plan for notorious tower block

Artist's impression of the development planned for the site of The Fort, in Leith.
Artist's impression of the development planned for the site of The Fort, in Leith.
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THE notorious Fort tower block in Leith is to be demolished within weeks and replaced with modern versions of Edinburgh’s historic colonies, it emerged today.

The bulldozing of Fort House, which had earned a reputation for violence and drug-taking, is expected to begin within weeks following the appointment of demolition contractor DSM, but work to dismantle the 1960s building could last through the summer.

The site should provide about 100 new homes designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, with plans showing colony-style buildings – a design first used in the late 19th century in Edinburgh. The homes are likely to be split between the city council, which has secured funding to build social rented accommodation, and Port of Leith Housing Association aimed at mid-market rent.

Blueprints show that a community “green space” will be at the heart of the development, with a traffic route through the site linking Portland Street and Lindsay Street.

The removal of parts of the listed Fort Wall should allow housing to get more sunlight while opening up accessibility to surrounding streets.

The Fort House regeneration project began in November 2009 with the rehousing of 151 tenants and three owners.

Ward councillor Gordon Munro said it had been a key landmark for the area, but hoped its notoriety would be buried alongside in the rubble.

“Fort has played a big part in the life of Leith,” he said. “It had an unfair reputation and I hope that will be demolished along with the building.

“The new plans are exciting and will complement the historic Madeira district, which is part of the Leith conservation area.”

Ricky Henderson, the council’s housing leader, said: “The new housing will provide quality homes and does illustrate the challenge we face with the need for housing in the city and trying not to make the mistakes of the past.

“Having Malcolm Fraser involved gives me every faith that there will be something appropriate and sympathetic.”

In October, the News told how the remains of an old military fort built to protect Leith had been uncovered by archaeologists excavating the site on behalf of the council.

Leith Fort was built in the 1780s after John Paul Jones – the Scot who founded the American navy – sailed up the Forth with three warships and threatened to attack Leith.

The fort was used as the base of the Royal Artillery in Scotland, with soldiers stationed at the barracks until the 1950s.

While most of the original fort’s interior was later demolished to make way for housing – namely the Fort House estate, which was built in the early 1960s – the perimeter wall, entrance gate and guardhouse were all left standing and have become listed buildings.