Land charity could root out solution to Craighouse row

Rosy Barnes leads the protest on Craighouse Hill
Rosy Barnes leads the protest on Craighouse Hill
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ACTIVISTS fighting against development on a city beauty spot could be gifted a stretch of woodland in a bid to smooth over the row.

Friends of Craighouse Woods have spearheaded a well-supported campaign to safeguard land on Craighouse Hill, which is earmarked for blocks of flats.

Now it is proposed that a deal involving the charity Fields in Trust – which has 1300 sites across the UK – could guarantee some community space and allow developers to press on.

Activists, however, are urging caution, warning it should not be used as a makeweight allowing for the destruction of the rest of the site.

Rosy Barnes, founder and spokeswoman of the group, established to safeguard Craighouse for the public, said the development could be interpreted either way.

She said: “The Friends would welcome any measure that would protect this important site. But it’s important the site isn’t salami sliced, with the protection of one part becoming a ‘deal’ that allows excessive development over the rest.”

Locals are furious at proposals to build flats at Craighouse Hill – owned partly by Edinburgh Napier University – which sits between Morningside and Craiglockhart and boasts some of the best views in Edinburgh.

They want any changes to be sympathetic, and think current plans for the £300 million initiative, which would see 200 new homes created, are out of keeping with the area and could create a gated community. Land access is also a fiercely contested point, with fears that, once homes are built, freedom to roam could be compromised.

A petition against the plans has already gathered more than 4000 signatures from locals, who point out the site has been used by the public for decades.

The university, which hosts many of its communications and music departments at Craighouse, sold the site to the newly-formed Craighouse Partnership last year.

That consortium is run by organisations including Sundial Properties, Mountgrange and the university itself. Proposals are currently in the pre- planning application stage and should come before councillors before the end of the year.

Council leader Jenny Dawe has now made contact with Fields in Trust to see if gifting a stretch of land would be possible, and it is understood it is keen to work in the area as it looks after four other sites in the city.

Alan Dickson, chairman of Craiglockhart Community Council, said: “This is a healthy development. My understanding is it would be a piece of land of no real use to the developers.”

Fields in Trust specialises in securing areas of land for the community in the face of major property developments.

Colin Rennie, manager of the trust in Scotland, said the proposal would be looked at by the organisation, adding: “We would be concerned if something intended for green space could be lost to development.”