​City should shape Summerhall’s future - Tommy Sheppard

Tommy Sheppard MPTommy Sheppard MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
The news that Summerhall is up for sale was greeted by shock and dismay by many. The maze of buildings in the former city veterinary school has won the affection of local people.

Maybe you’ve been to a performance in one of the quirky rooms that have been repurposed for the arts. Maybe you’ve been to celebration there. Or maybe you just remember a relaxing summer evening in the courtyard.

Over the last 13 years Summerhall has become a thriving hub of more than a hundred businesses. A unique arts complex. An asset for Edinburgh. Now all that could be under threat. But threat also offers opportunity.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The complicated patchwork of current leases are being sold with the buildings – a lot of going concerns. That means that wholesale redevelopment isn’t going to happen overnight.

Summerhall has become a leading venue during the fringe festival in the last decadeSummerhall has become a leading venue during the fringe festival in the last decade
Summerhall has become a leading venue during the fringe festival in the last decade

But in the hands of someone thinking of money, these leases could be run down one by one with current tenants sent packing and parts of the site redeveloped or sold off.

This salami style approach could see Summerhall dismantled step by step over the years to come.

The possibility of that has been heralded by those marketing the site who talk about boutique hotels and student accommodation. This has done little to allay public fears about its future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Summerhall has been built on a shoestring. The shabby chic experience of walking through the venue belies the fact that it could be better if somebody spent a few bob on it.

So, could a sale be an opportunity to get much-needed investment into the complex? Maybe. But to help that happen we, the city, should take control of the situation.

That’s why I’ve written to the council calling on them to take a pro-active approach on developing a 25-year masterplan for the site.

Working with existing occupants, through public consultation, plans could be drawn up to protect what we already have and build upon it.

We’re not powerless. Using planning and other powers, we can deter any unscrupulous or uncaring prospective buyers who are eyeing up the chance of making a mint at our city’s expense.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.