CAMPAIGNERS are stepping up their efforts to halt a controversial development they claim will destroy the character of a conservation area.
Plans for two restaurants, three flats and six townhouses at Canonmills Bridge have already been approved, but the developers have not yet got permission for demolition of the current single-storey building on the site, which houses the popular Earthy restaurant.
An application for demolition is expected to be considered by councillors within the next two months.
But objectors are pulling out all the stops in a bid to persuade them to refuse it and put a halt to the development, which they say is just too big.
They have been lobbying councillors on the planning committee, have amassed nearly 3000 signatures on an online petition, their Facebook page has received almost 900 likes and they gathered hundreds more petition signatures from passers-by during a weekend of awareness-raising.
Campaigner Ross McEwan said: “The building has a lot of history attached to it. We’ve only discovered in the last few days that it used to be the stable yard for the horse-drawn trams that ran in the area in the 1860s.
“When they moved on to cable trams, it had a number of other uses. It was a yacht chandlers at one stage and more recently it has seen a variety of restaurants – Dionika, Eastern Spice and now Earthy.”
Mr McEwan said the proposed new four-storey building of brown sandstone in what Mr McEwan calls “the modern traditionalist Edinburgh style at the moment” would block views and destroy the skyline.
He said: “The whole idea of a small building means it is an open townscape. The size of the building is important because it means you can see all the other buildings around and it allows views to the Water of Leith.
“Earthy have done well – people sit outside, it’s a nice space and it’s because it’s open.
“It’s not that people are against all development, but this just seems too big.
“At the end of the day it would mean nine units and they would be high-end residential accommodation. It’s not solving Edinburgh’s housing issues.”
Over the next few weeks, opponents of the development plan regular campaigning at weekends near the police box at Canonmills, telling people about the proposals and collecting signatures on their petition.
Inverleith Conservative councillor Iain Whyte sympathised with the objections.
He said: “There is a great deal of concern in the local community about this application. They see the current building as having value and fitting in with the local landscape. They want to see it preserved and they have been working hard with their petition and a letter-writing campaign.”
Permission for the development was granted in 2013, but many protesters were not aware of the scheme until last year when history group, Lost Edinburgh, published images of the planned building online.
The site was inundated with messages. David McLean, who runs the site, argued the development would have a negative visual impact on the area.
He said: “The tenement behind it [at the bottom of Huntly Street] is one of the existing examples of Scottish Baronial architecture and it will be totally obscured from view. It’s just like cheap, flat-pack furniture.”