I have lived in Muirhouse for eight years and in that time I have seen a steady decline in the area. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great place to live. One of the things that I love is the fantastic community spirit.
One day this summer one of my neighbours opened up their garden so that more than 100 local kids could turn it into a giant waterslide.
It was great fun – part of a local initiative, called Total Craigroyston, which was set up to allow children to play safely in the street – and just goes to show that you don’t need to spend lots of money to have an enjoyable day. It’s a good place for kids like my nine-year-old son Gary and my daughter Gemma, aged seven.
There are some fantastic local facilities too. The North Edinburgh Art Centre, with its cafe, studios and live music, and the Millennium Centre, which is a hive of activity and stages free events for the community throughout the year, are well used and highly valued by residents. Craigroyston Primary and High schools are both relatively new – and very stylish – buildings, with busy programmes of term-time and holiday activities.
Talking to friends and neighbours, there is a strong feeling that the general upkeep of the neighbourhood has been let go, and that this creates a negative vibe about the area, despite all the good things that are going on.
The flats on Muirhouse Avenue, for instance, were demolished to make way for the so-called 21st century homes. No work has started since the flats were demolished three years ago. Instead, the area has been planted with wild flowers. These have never been maintained and as a direct result we now have a large open area which has been taken over by weeds more than four feet high.
Properly maintained, the area could be used by local children until building work starts. I just don’t understand why the council, through its 21st Century Homes programme, feels it appropriate to leave the area in such a mess. Muirhouse might not be the most attractive area in the world, but this is certainly not helping.
The pictures that I have taken around the estate show what it looks like right now. There is a path which children are expected to walk along to and from home, running from Muirhouse Park to Muirhouse Avenue, which is overrun on both sides with weeds, flies, slugs and snails. I understand this is difficult to prevent altogether, but a scene like this isn’t what you expect to find in the middle of a housing estate. Why is it happening? Only because of the large amount of weeds that are being allowed to grow uncontrolled on each side.
Another common complaint is the state of the road on Pennywell Gardens. Someone recently described it as suitable only for 4x4 vehicles – and they are not wrong.
These things are bad enough in isolation but the overall impression that they give is terrible. It feels like we are living on a forgotten estate.
There is a simple solution. Cut down the weeds and carry out a general clean-up and patch-up of the area. It would make the world of difference.
Demolition is never a pretty process
Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s housing leader, says: “This is an exciting time for the people of Muirhouse and Pennywell as we aim to build up to 800 homes for rent and sale across the area. It’s part of our 21st Century Homes for Edinburgh programme which will help deliver much-needed affordable housing across the city.
“The economy will also benefit through new jobs in construction and support for existing local businesses. Developers will be asked to provide training and apprenticeships for young people during the project. And there will be improvements to the local environment too, including roads, footways and public spaces.
“We do recognise there is disruption to the people who live and work in the area. Demolishing old homes that aren’t fit for purpose and building new ones is never a pretty process. We created the wildflower sites, as agreed with the community, as these help with biodiversity but we acknowledge they haven’t been quite as successful this year.
“The local team will take steps to deal with this and tackle other issues such as path maintenance. It will take time, but I will personally champion this development and am very confident that local people will really see the benefits of this once all the work is finished.”