Infrastructure needs looked at as Portobello expands claim residents

Bliss hairdressers, l-r, Kelly McMillan, Laura Flanagan, Rosheen Warnock, Justine Hughes and Sammara Law tell us about living in Porty
Bliss hairdressers, l-r, Kelly McMillan, Laura Flanagan, Rosheen Warnock, Justine Hughes and Sammara Law tell us about living in Porty
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LEGEND has it that Figgate Whins, the harsh seaside moorlands that would become modern-day Portobello, were sold in 1763 by Lord Milton to Baron Mure for the princely sum of £1,500.

Quite what either buyer or seller would make of a two-bedroom flat fetching more than £250,000 today is anyone’s guess.

Portobello is expanding but residents say more needs to be done to support those living there

Portobello is expanding but residents say more needs to be done to support those living there

Latest figures reveal homes in Portobello selling for 25 per cent more than they were a year ago, confirming Porty’s place as the Capital’s property hotspot.

So what makes this seaside haven a favoured destination for young families and 
professionals?

Dad-of-two Allan McFarlane moved to Joppa from Leith eight years ago and has no 
regrets.

“It’s just got a really good mix of people,” said Allan, 42, soaking up the sunshine on the prom with six-month-old Hungarian Vizsla puppy, Dexter.

“It’s getting a bit middle class really, I suppose, with more refined eating and drinking.

“It’s great for families. I walk my daughter to school along the promenade. How great is that?,” he added, fresh from winning the Tower Bank Primary sports day fathers’ race, held on the beach, naturally.

“If you’re having a stressful day, getting the kids ready or whatever, you just walk out onto the promenade and it’s such a release.

“I wouldn’t leave this area, I think it’s fantastic. I can totally see why other people want to live here.”

But with more flats on the way bringing a greater influx of newcomers to sample Porty’s delights, even this seaside idyll has its issues, with concerns over strained infrastructure.

“I work in Norway a lot and they put roads and services in first whereas we seem to do it a*** about elbow and put the houses in first,” said the offshore surveyor.

“They have developed former industrial areas here though, which I think is good,” added Allan.

But he said improvements could be made. “I’d like to see more done with the promenade. Only last year the kids’ play park opened but there’s great possibilities and I’d like to see more done down here.”

Such sentiment is shared in the Beach House cafe where bustling staff serve ice cream and cool drinks to basking regulars on the sun-splashed promenade.

“We do get tourists coming in and asking which way should they walk, that way or this way,” says manager Jenny O’Donnell, 27.

“But apart from us and the pub, there’s not much activity.”

But that at least means a captive audience for the popular stop-off. “It’s booming, especially in summer but all year round really,” adds Jenny, taking a well-earned rest.

“People always come to the beach and being right on the seafront is a massive help. It’s an extremely busy cafe. We get a mix of tourists every day and quite a lot of regulars as well.”

And far from being confined to the beachfront, the feel-good Porty business vibe is felt further in town as well, on the High Street.

Here, a thriving independent outfit is never out of sight, be it a bagel shop, wine merchant, butchers or florist – interwoven with the customary chains and charity stores.

This start-up, have-a-go culture is what makes Porty such an attractive place to shop and work, says Bliss Hair Design beautician Justine Hughes.

“We get people coming from all over,” says the 27-year-old, from Lasswade. “We’ve got clients from Port Seton, we’ve even got one from Aberdeen.

“I think they come because it’s such a good atmosphere – we’ve got a lot of independent shops.

“I love working here as well. You can go and get your lunch and sit on the beach. Even on my day off I come to Portobello to walk the dog.

“We’ve got clients who stay in Portobello too and they always comment about the new places opening up – it’s a lovely area.”

And the great rush to Porty is set to continue, with nearly 2,500 homes lined up on land in and around the suburb – transforming the community forever.

Developers have lodged planning applications for a raft of sites, bidding to cash in on daunting housebuilding targets.

While widespread acceptance of the need for more housing exists, so do fears for already under-pressure GP surgeries, schools and roads.

A mile-and-a-half from the heart of Portobello, more than 1,300 homes will be wedged between Brunstane Burn and Newcraighall Road.

Barratt Homes has built 500 homes at Baileyfield South, on the site of the current Standard Life buildings, just off Portobello High Street, with 200 and an Aldi on a neighbouring plot.

Retired teacher Fiona Thomson has lived in Joppa for 21 years. “There’s more traffic, I suppose because there’s more people and more housing,” says Fiona, 60, trying to make herself heard over idling engines on the High Street.

“That junction is particularly bad and they’ve built more there,” says Fiona, glancing toward newly finished flats off the High Street and King’s Road.

“There’s also going to be 1,300 houses at Milton Road East – which will be awful. There needs to be infrastructure too.”

What else could city chiefs do to help Porty’s boom?

“They could do something about the litter,” says Fiona. “They need to make sure there’s enough bins and they’re emptied enough.”

And how can they ensure Porty is still booming in another 20 years?

“I hope they keep the small, independent shops and it’s not completely taken over by chains,” says 
Fiona.

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com