Anger after fencing erected at £1m Stockbridge ‘ransom strip’

Fencing has been erected to mark out a strip of disputed land on Comely Bank Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Fencing has been erected to mark out a strip of disputed land on Comely Bank Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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SHOCKED developers turned up at their Stockbridge site to find owners of a so-called “ransom strip” along its edge were building a fence to protect their investment.

The Grange Club, based next door to the Edinburgh Academicals sports ground, claimed two years ago it owned a 2ft-wide strip of land in front of the land in Comely Bank Road.

Club trustees told how they since sold it on to developer Douglas Lowe who sparked bewilderment this week by installing the metal barrier.

But Mr Lowe denied any wrongdoing and said the fence had been built on land belonging to owners Grange Members, a new body independent of the Grange Club.

“Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the merits of the Accies development, this erection of a fence on the public realm, that serves no purpose, is an affront to all the regulations and laws that are in place to protect a conservation area, protect trees and ensure that any developments, regardless of where they are in the city, go through an approved process,” said independent Inverleith councillor Gavin Barrie.

“I have asked that all the relevant council departments give this matter their attention and if any laws have been broken I would seek that appropriate redress is sought from the person responsible.”

The strip of land is considered vital for access to the shops planned to front onto the road as part of the £16m development, so experts estimated the strip to be worth around £1m.

But last year, the Grange Club lost a court ruling on the case. It decided against an appeal and instead agreed to sell the land to one of its former chairmen, property developer Mr Lowe.

Manager of Accies site developer Raeburn Place Foundation, Louise Hodgson, said: “We are very surprised as far as the fence is concerned and it’s now a matter for the council.

“We have concerns about three trees. Those trees are protected trees and work shouldn’t be done anywhere near them without correct permission from the council.”

A community art project to decorate the Foundation’s own boundary hoardings with illustrations by schoolchildren and the elderly has now been put on hold.

Grange Club secretary Gordon Tolland confirmed the strip was sold to a company run by Mr Lowe ”a few weeks ago” for “several thousand pounds.”

Speaking of the site, Mr Tolland added: “I have to stress it’s nothing to do with the Grange Club – anything that happens is really down to him.”

Mr Lowe said he wrote to the Raeburn Place Foundation in July and more recently to suggest talks on reaching a deal and awaits their reply.

“I hope they are open for discussions as we want the development to go ahead,” added Mr Lowe. “I don’t envisage any problems coming to a proper arrangement. I’ve done this type of thing before.”

A council spokeswoman confirmed officers are aware of the fence “and will be working with developers and land owners to resolve the situation.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com