Barnton estate stunned by conservation status bid

The 'innovatively designed' Southfield Estate. Picture: Neil Hanna
The 'innovatively designed' Southfield Estate. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A HOUSING estate built in the 1960s is set to be granted conservation status – to the disbelief of those who live there.

Historic Scotland wants to add Southfield Estate, near Barnton, to its list of 49 areas of special interest.

The 110 homes built around communal gardens would join the likes of Craiglockhart, Morningside, Marchmont and Stockbridge in being afforded special protection.

The development has been praised for its “innovative” design and “social ambitions” which set it apart from similar projects of the time in Scotland.

Among those supporting the proposal are the Saltire Society and the Architectural History Society of Scotland.

But many residents remain mystified as to why their “ugly” housing estate is being considered for the honour.

At a recent public meeting, it is understood that eight people were in favour of conservation status, and 80 against.

Gavin Syme, 51, said the buildings were “concrete” and “brutal” while his wife, Nicola, said: “If we wanted them 
celebrated as something unique we might as well go down the Balamory route and paint them different colours.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said the estate had “no great architectural merit” and that homes had been altered so much already that they had lost their original character.

Homeowners were also concerned that they would be forced to tear down extensions and make expensive alterations to their homes.

Conservation status means that building alterations are strictly controlled and unauthorised changes may be removed.

Residents said re-instating original-style doors and windows would make homes more vulnerable to break-ins, and that the stringent rules might put people off buying houses.

A council spokeswoman said a consultation on the Southfield Estate had finished and that a report with recommendations would go before the planning committee on December 4.

The Cockburn Association, the Capital’s civic trust, has already written in support of the idea.

In her letter Marion Williams, director of the association, said Southfield had contributed “distinctively and sympathetically” to the Barnton skyline and made a 
“distinguished contribution” to the fabric of West Edinburgh.

All the homes on the estate are now in private ownership, with the communal areas managed by an annually elected committee of residents,

The architect for Southfield, H Roland Wedgwood, who died four years ago, had a distinguished career in Edinburgh.

The estate, built between 1965 and 1968 was the largest of his housing commissions in Scotland, its merit recognised in 1969 with a Saltire Award.