FEARS have been raised that an underpass which would provide access to a new £12 million health centre could become a crime hotspot.
Plans for the new link to the state-of-the-art Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre, which is scheduled to open next year, have been mired in controversy.
Local community campaigners have said the planned tunnel, between the Wester Hailes Shopping Plaza car park and the new 5000 square metre building, would not be fit for use by disabled residents or mothers with prams as it is too steep and too narrow.
Pentlands MSP Gordon Macdonald has now raised further concerns that the proposed route could become a prime site for criminals to strike in robberies or assaults.
He said: “We have a lot of problems with the underpasses on Calder Road. The community there is going to have a campaign for pedestrian crossings because they’re so concerned about the number of assaults and robberies.”
Mr Macdonald said that figures in a council report show that 26 crimes had taken place in the four Calder Road underpasses within 16 months, and that he was against creating another unsighted area.
“The council knows from its own reports that there are problems with underpasses and so do the police. This will recreate it in Wester Hailes.
“Think of when it’s winter and the dark nights come in. There’s no way people are going to enter into the underpass when there’s this fear.”
The issue of the underpass was discussed at a packed joint meeting of the South West and Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnerships this week.
The shopping centre car park leaseholder, Anglian Water Group (AWG), was again accused of refusing to compromise on the number of spaces it has released for the tunnel upgrade. It has so far agreed to release only three spaces.
Pentlands councillor and the city’s health leader Ricky Henderson said the company had been obstructive and was “holding the council to ransom”.
City leader Andrew Burns said that he hoped the issue of access to the Healthy Living Centre could be revisited after a forthcoming council report into the matter was published.
He said: “We very much welcome the development but there is the access issue. The report does give the possibility of reopening the topic. It gives the officers a opportunity to have another look with AWG to see whether there’s another solution.”
A council spokesperson said: “We have listened to local residents who voiced their opinions at the recent public meeting. We will take on board their comments and see if any changes can be made to the proposed design.”