City may take over part of campus site for community use

CITY leaders are being asked to consider taking over part of the controversial Craighouse site with a view to creating the Capital’s first ever community woodland.

By David O’Leary
Tuesday, 6th November 2012, 12:00 pm

A report into the matter has been called for in a motion by council leader Andrew Burns and to see if successful, ownership could then be transferred to the local community.

Users of the popular woodland have warmly welcomed the proposition, with a new local body the Common Ground Association (CGA) already set up with a view to taking the reins when funding is identified. Councillor Burns submitted his motion at today’s meeting of the Corporate Policy And Strategy Committee.

CGA director Robin McLaren, who is currently chairman of the Friends of Craiglockhart Woods and Nature Trail (FCWNT) which borders the Craighouse woodland, said: “This would be a first of a kind community woodland in the city. We’re talking about 20 hectares of land. The way the proposal would work would be for the council to take ownership for three or four years until we prove that we have the resources and energy to take it on, then it would be transferred to the association.”

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The innovative scheme has also received the backing of the site’s developers, who “support” the council’s efforts in investigating the matter further.

William Gray Muir, director of Sundial Properties said: “The Craighouse Partnership has a long standing commitment to ensuring that public access to the woodlands and open space is protected when the campus is redeveloped as high quality residential accommodation.

“We support this initiative by City of Edinburgh Council to investigate this matter further and look forward to working with them and other community representatives as part of our wider plans to secure a sustainable future for Craighouse.”

Friends of Craighouse spokeswoman Rosy Barnes said: “We have long been supportive of the idea of community ownership or the community and council working together with joint ownership of greenspace and woodland.

“The developers seem anxious not to wait and are telling people that the application is going to go in a couple of weeks, so we must do all we can to make sure there is not excessive newbuild on this truly special site.”

Tensions have run high regarding the site since it was revealed that current owner the Craighouse Partnership, comprised of Sundial Properties, Mountgrange Investment and Napier University, plans to build 116 new homes on the former campus.

This led locals to form a campaign group Friends of Craighouse, which has raised a petition against the plans.