Ian Rankin backs community bid to save Edinburgh’s Astley Ainslie grounds

Ian Rankin with his son Kit. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/ TSPL
Ian Rankin with his son Kit. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/ TSPL
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Author Ian Rankin has given his backing to efforts to save the green spaces around the Astley Ainslie Hospital by transferring the site to the community.

The land and buildings of Scotland’s last convalescent hospital are expected to be put up for sale within the next few years once services have been switched to the redeveloped Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

Residents worried that developers will build over the whole 50-acre site established the Astley Ainslie Community Trust (AACT) last year and are now consulting the public on what they would like to see happen to the hospital and surrounding land.

A drop-in session on Saturday will give people an opportunity to make their suggestions and a meeting the following weekend, on Sunday March 31, will present a draft community vision the first step towards a formal proposal for the future of the site.

Campaigners fear if the land is sold to a developer then the public will lose their right to access the grounds and a historic landscape will be transformed into expensive 
housing.

Astley Ainslie was opened in 1923 with money left by East Lothian farmer David Ainslie who died in 1900 and wanted a convalescent hospital to be founded in memory of his nephew John Astley Ainslie.

In a message to the campaigners, Rebus author Ian Rankin said: “I am a frequenter of the Astley Ainsley – my son is resident at the Royal Blind on Canaan Lane and we often push his wheelchair around the grounds.

“My fear has always been that such a large, secluded, green space in a prime location would be sold off to developers. I’d be keen to see that not happen!

“David Ainslie’s bequest makes it abundantly clear he wanted the grounds (and buildings) retained for the common good – and I think your (AACT) ideas are admirable in this respect.”

If there is backing for the move, the trust hopes to use community empowerment legislation to transfer some or all of the hospital site into local control.

Trust convener and former Green MSP Robin Harper said: “Astley Ainslie is an oasis of greenery and we want it to continue as a space that provides both health and wellbeing 
benefits for people long after the NHS leaves.

“We need to hear if people are interested in taking over some or all of the buildings and the grounds, what are their priorities, and then we can look at putting together a business plan and exploring our options.

“What is abundantly clear is that people want to maintain public access to these special green spaces, and they don’t want high density private housing, as is currently happening in Edinburgh’s Green Belt and within many of Edinburgh’s green urban spaces.”

The drop-in event on Saturday is at the Eric Liddell Centre at Holy Corner, 10am-4pm. It will include a programme of talks at the centre and walks in the hospital grounds.