'I couldn’t believe it’ - Edinburgh residents mourn loss of historic buildings as old Sick Kids is developed

Capital residents have expressed their dismay as Edinburgh loses another of its precious architectural gems to developers.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Saturday, 4th December 2021, 10:53 am

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Marchmont residents knew the original children’s hospital was to be retained and its adjoining buildings razed to make way for new homes.

However, the loss is being sharply felt as the wrecking ball demolished what is believed to have been the home of William Pairman, a 19th century Edinburgh grocer and merchant.

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Demolition work on the old Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital has caused some controversy with the destruction of Victorian villas on the picturesque Meadows

The Sick Kids Hospital cared for more than 50,000 unwell children each year and was an important and well loved city institution for more than 161 years.

After the children’s hospital was permanently relocated to Little France NHS Lothian handed over ownership to Downings in June, 2021.

The Liverpool-based developer is thought to have paid more than £20 million to secure ownership, despite a community by-out-bid being lodged.

Downing’s plans to build luxury apartments and student flats were given the go ahead by Edinburgh City Council.

The demolition came as a surprise to many.

In a report, the council said: “On balance, it is considered that the architectural value that 1 Rillbank Crescent contributes to its immediate location on the street at present does not match the potential to improve the overall urban form and townscape of the wider Conservation Area.

“It is concluded that the demolition of this property in this instance is appropriate and that any local impact on the character of the street through the loss of the building will be offset and enhanced by the overall improvement to the wider townscape character.”

Plans for the site were not made clear, said local historian

While building plans were made over four years ago a local historian has said these plans were not communicated with the public properly.

The wrecking ball demolished what is believed to have been the home of William Pairman, a 19th century Edinburgh grocer and merchant.

Many residents have been left angry and upset after the building, which dates back 161 years was torn down.

Local historian Diarmid Mogg has said he was unaware that this was the future of the iconic building.

Speaking to the Evening News he said that plans to demolish the building was not made clear to the public until it was too late.

He said: “It’s clear that, like me, most people in the area had no idea that the building would be demolished until the demolition was under way.

“It’s also clear that most people were dismayed at the destruction of an attractive building facing the Meadows, and its replacement with a fairly boring box-like building.”

The Cockburn Society said there was not enough community support to protect the site.

It Tweeted: “Sadly, only 59 comments were registered at the time about this development where it counts, on the Council's Planning Portal.”

Mr Mogg said this lack of engagement points to issues in how the public are notified about developments.

He said: “It points to a problem with the way communities are notified about developments in their area. How many people regularly browse the council’s planning portal?”

The main hospital building has been designed to be retained and used as centrepiece of the new scheme and will be redeveloped as a mixture of one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments.

Locals shocked by the destruction

Local resident, Lucy Morris was jogging past the building on a morning run when she was brought to a standstill by the sight of the destroyed building.

Mrs Morris said: “I spotted that (the demolished building) in progress this morning - it stopped me in my running tracks, couldn’t believe it.”

Downing have been contacted for comment.

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