Fury at plans to ditch floral displays at High School Yards

The award-winning floral displays could soon be removed after being labelled a fire risk. Picture: Neil Hanna
The award-winning floral displays could soon be removed after being labelled a fire risk. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The award-winning colourful balconies of an 18th century tenement adorned with vibrant flowers and verdant greenery are so pretty they have been known to stop camera-happy tourists in their tracks.

But now there are claims of creeping skulduggery and dark intimidation as residents battle landlords to save the foliage they have lovingly tended for years.

The tense stand-off over pot plants on the balconies at High School Yards, a street that won the Best Street in Edinburgh Prize for Gardening two years in a row, is now threatening to boil over into open warfare.

Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association has demanded the plants be cleared – and it has not gone down well,

Resident Lyndsay Montgomery explained: “They wanted every balcony stripped of its flowers, there’s to be no sitting out, no tables, no washing drying outside your house, and no flowers. They reckon everything is a fire or trip hazard,” she said.

“I’m the person who has the most to lose, I have the most flowers on my balcony. I was so upset about the whole thing. I’ve had these plants for years, they’re part of my life,” she said.

Ms Montgomery, whose display was featured on the Beechgrove Garden in 2005, claimed: “I saw a subversive type creeping round taking photographs. Nobody is going to creep round my balcony.

“Then a housing officer came and said, ‘We’ll strip these balconies and you will have to pay for the storage’. He was very threatening, it was strong-arm stuff,” she said.

“I’m nearly 72, I’ve just come through cancer, and this is what I’m forced to deal with.”

Ms Montgomery, who has lived there for nearly 30 years, said some fellow tenants got so frightenend by the letters the Housing Association sent that they threw their plants in the bin.

She added: There’s not many of us. They thought they were going to get away with being threatening, then they found out they were not,” she said.

“I’m thinking about contacting the Scottish Executive. We have the right to know what’s going on and at the moment it looks like we have no rights at all. They’re using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.”

A spokesman for Castle Rock Edinvar said: “Following a Fire Safety Risk Assessment it was identified that an increasing number of items were being stored or displayed in the shared walkways which lead to each resident’s front door. As these are communal walkways it is important they are kept clear of any obstructions to ensure in the event of an evacuation residents can leave safely and quickly.

“All residents were written to asking them to move any items on the shared walkways. We recognise this may have been disappointing for some who used this area to display plants. We are sorry that some residents did not feel the communication they received explained the situation clearly enough. We met with residents this week [Tuesday] to listen to any concerns, and discuss an agreeable solution for the storage of items, and to look at options for flowers and plants to be displayed in a way that does not obstruct the shared walkways.

We are committed to finding a solution which residents are happy with but does not compromise their safety.”