Neighbours barge on in to shape canal’s future

The former brewery site at Fountainbridge. Picture: Greg Macvean
The former brewery site at Fountainbridge. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A NEW campaign group has been set up to fight for resident-friendly development of the former site of the Fountain Brewery.

The Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative (FCI) wants to ensure that the site’s development includes facilities for local residents and also takes advantage of its location next to the Union Canal.

It wants to draw up its own proposals for parts of the site then present them to the various developers that have a stake in the site.

One part of the 4.7 hectare site is set to be used for the development of a new Boroughmuir High School after the city council beat off competition to become preferred bidder for the site, while the authority plans to sell off a “substantial” part of the land it owns to developers. Student flats are also planned for another part of the site that is owned by a private developer.

And the group wants to ensure that the plans that are brought forward benefit the local community.

Ben Miller, a member of the FCI steering group which is holding a public event this weekend to work up proposals for the site, said: “We hope to bring people together that do not normally have a say or get the chance to think long-term about the future of their community and by the end of the day we hope to have five or six ideas of what people want to see in terms of housing, green space or whatever else.

“We will put the ideas to the council before everything gets decided so that it doesn’t just become more empty offices and empty homes because there’s plenty of those already.”

The group has been inspired by the work of the Save Our Old Town campaign, which fought against proposals for the Caltongate development off the Royal Mile. It hopes that getting involved before detailed plans for the school and surrounding land are drawn up will help them get the outcome they want.

HBOS bought the site from Scottish & Newcastle in 2008 for around £30 million and planned to build a Bank of Scotland office hub, but Lloyds Banking Group dropped the plans after it snapped up HBOS.

A masterplan for the site was drawn up last year, before the council itself became one of the landowners. A hotel and conference centre plus apartments, shops, cafes and leisure space featured in the designs, which attempted to revive hopes of the area becoming a “Little Venice”.

The plans are now likely to be dramatically changed as the council attempts to incorporate the new school into the site.

Stan Reeves, another member of the FCI steering group, which is holding its Brewing New Life event from 10.30am to 2.30pm this Saturday in Tollcross Community Centre, said: “This part of Edinburgh has a fantastic history of industry and community and we want to make sure that local people get the chance to have their say on its future.

“This isn’t just about the look and feel of the canalside area, but also about what the needs of the area are in terms of jobs and affordable housing.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “EDI has recently appointed architects to review the masterplan for the site. Community consultations will form part of the process to ensure the feedback of local residents is taken into consideration’”.