In September 2011, developers unveiled radical proposals for the renovation of one of Edinburgh’s most treasured beauty spots.
More than 1000 days have passed since, and Craighouse campus – the rolling utopia in Morningside with views across the Capital and east of Scotland – has gone to the dogs.
The planning row between the Craighouse Partnership owners and the local campaign group Friends of Craighouse has resulted in almost three years of demise.
The historic buildings have been boarded up and fenced off, and the once lush green slopes are now overgrown.
The grand gateway which used to beckon locals and Napier University students alike has been closed off, and even a colourful “welcome to Craighouse” logo – written in either desperation or irony – has been removed. Unless you live nearby and know these great grounds are for public use, you’d think it was off-limits. Visiting the site now – save for the spectacular views – is thoroughly depressing; only the local black Labradors charging through the undergrowth can seemingly get any pleasure from the wasteland.
In 2004, students at Napier planted a tree in memory of colleague Tristan Hewins who died in a road accident nearby; finding that tribute amid the wildlands now is impossible. So who’s to blame for this dire situation?
Developers haven’t helped. If they had agreed to dip into the £300 million project fund and maintain the land in and around the buildings they want to renovate that would have built some trust with the local community.
In 2011 campaigner Rosy Barnes warned: “We do not believe the developers have properly grasped the natural feel of this wonderful place.”
Looking at the intimidating signs warning of on-site security, it’s hard to disagree. But maybe the locals could have been more embracing to the idea of change.
I’m sure when Napier acquired the campus in 1994 similar fears about access and local amenity existed, but for thousands of students it was the most glorious place to study.
Sundial Properties were correct when they said high-calibre architecture would “strengthen Edinburgh’s image as a desirable place to live”.
I’m not convinced new homes would be any more detrimental to the area than having thousands of students, staff and lecturers flocking there every day.
Regardless of who’s to blame, Craighouse has fallen into disrepair, something that simply wouldn’t have been allowed to happen to A-list city green spaces like the Meadows or Arthur’s Seat. It’s time for heads to be knocked together to restore this once great local facility.
• Adam Morris is a former Napier University student and Morningside resident