Protests as McVitie’s Blackford land goes on sale

MP 'Ian Murray joins members of Morningside Community Council and local residents at the Midmar Paddock to campaign against the area being developed. ''Picture: Jane Barlow
MP 'Ian Murray joins members of Morningside Community Council and local residents at the Midmar Paddock to campaign against the area being developed. ''Picture: Jane Barlow
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PROTESTERS are vowing to fight plans by descendants of the founder of McVitie’s biscuits to sell off a popular beauty spot for development.

The ten-acre site at Midmar Paddock, in Blackford, and the allotments to its north were sold to Alexander Grant in 1923 – former managing director of McVitie’s and inventor of the digestive biscuit.

The biscuit baron – who is a distant relation of reality TV show Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing – passed the land down through his family and it is still owned by the Trustees of Alexander Grant Laing, under the name Midmar Properties Ltd.

But now the land which is popular with dog walkers – the history of which was uncovered by land reform campaigner Andy Wightman – is being marketed as having “development potential”, after long-term owners the Laing Family Trust put it up for sale.

Around 100 protesters turned out yesterday morning to show their opposition to any development on the well-loved green space, which is bounded by Heritage Drive and Midmar Drive, and adjoins the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill Nature Reserve.

A brochure advertising the site through Strutt and Parker described the plot as “an opportunity for higher value, bespoke properties with potential self-build opportunities to be delivered within a highly prestigious area of the city”.

The community is expecting an imminent application for housing at the site but members from local group the Friends of the Hermitage have launched the campaign to oppose any such plan.

Goff Cantley, who is spearheading the Save Midmar 
Paddock campaign, said: “More than 100 people use this site every day which makes it one of the most popular visitor attractions in Edinburgh.

“I think a lot of people think it an integral part of the nature reserve.

“It would totally destroy the rural nature of the area around Blackford Hill.”

He said the area was currently protected within the city’s 2010 local plan as a designated greenbelt area, a special landscape area, designated open space and a local nature conservation area.

Mr Cantley, who has lived in the area for nearly 34 years, added: “We believe the draft local plan for 2015 still has these protections but we know that developers will still be looking at this site.”

The campaigners are in the process of sending out 11,000 leaflets to residents in the area and have attracted the support of local councillors and politicians to their cause.

Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, who is backing the campaign, said: “This is a jewel in the crown of green space in Edinburgh. It is a green lung which leads you into the Braid Hills.

“The aim is to basically show the level of local support against any application that may come in for building on Midmar Paddock.

“People have been defending this space for 30 or 40 years and we want to send out a message.“

Strutt and Parker was unavailable for comment.