HUNDREDS of people have joined a campaign against plans to redevelop a historic city beauty spot, saying it would be like “sticking a supermarket on the Castle Esplanade”.
Edinburgh Napier University’s Craighouse campus in Morningside was sold to the Craighouse Partnership earlier this year in a deal that could see up to 200 homes built on the site.
Campaigners fear the “excessive” development will destroy the grounds and threaten public access to the site, which is located on one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. The Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood campaign group has been formed in direct response to the £300 million project run by a consortium, which includes Sundial Properties, Mountgrange Real Estate Opportunity Fund and the university itself.
Rosy Barnes, a founder member of the group, said: “Everyone wants the buildings to be used and to have a good future.
“The question is whether the site should be spoiled for that and we don’t believe it needs to be, because the landscape is as important as the buildings.
“It’s like refurbishing Edinburgh Castle and sticking a supermarket on the Esplanade.
“We want to preserve the green space so want to minimise new buildings on the site.
“This is a heavily protected green space and I don’t see that this is the kind of area where there should be substantial new build developments. An ideal outcome would be to preserve the buildings and preserve the landscape.”
Ms Barnes added that she has been impressed by the level of support shown by the community. She said: “This is an amazing place, a haven for wildlife, where people come for recreation and for its spectacular views across the city.
“It is a place where kids can play safely – and people come together to watch fireworks, roll Easter eggs, or just enjoy the great outdoors.
“We’ve already been amazed at the response. We have members from all walks of life and from eight to 80 years old.
“This is a site that is much loved by local people and I’m getting lots of e-mails saying this, including from two children who said it is like something out of a fairytale.”
The Craighouse site dates back to the 12th century, formerly housing patients of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum.
The seven A-listed buildings currently on site will be converted into around 90 individual properties. Up to 110 properties will be built on the site, and developers are currently consulting with the public over their plans as part of a pre-application process.
William Gray Muir, managing director of Sundial Properties, said it was the intention of the Craighouse Partnership to continue to allow public access “at the highest possible level”.
He said: “We have said this repeatedly and it’s frustrating that people don’t believe us.
“We think it’s very important that there is community access and we believe it is an area of exceptional beauty and importance to the city.
“There will be about 90 units from the listed buildings so we need to have enough development of the site so that future occupiers will be prepared to support not only the maintenance of the buildings, but also the landscape.
“People have to be realistic that a long-term future of the site is what we have all got to be aiming for.
“It’s not about what’s going to happen to it within the next two years, it’s about the next 100 years.”