Have your say on masterplan for Capital’s historic Leith Links - Steve Cardownie

Hundreds flocked to Leith Links in June to enjoy Leith Festival's Gala Day celebrations in the sunHundreds flocked to Leith Links in June to enjoy Leith Festival's Gala Day celebrations in the sun
Hundreds flocked to Leith Links in June to enjoy Leith Festival's Gala Day celebrations in the sun
In his book published in 1905, Leon Wilson wrote that “golf is a good walk spoiled” – a sentiment undoubtedly shared by many, but as its popularity has spread like wildfire since the book was written it would appear that Mr. Wilson’s contention must be on the wane.

But I wonder if he knew that the subject of his displeasure was actually first played and developed on Leith Links.

On April 2, 1744 the first golf competition held anywhere in the world took place on Leith Links when a group of golfers, who became known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, organised the competition and produced the first rules of golf which were adopted by the Royal and Ancient Company of Golfers when they moved to St Andrews in 1777.

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The competition was won by Dr John Rattray, surgeon, Jacobite and golfer, a statue of whom was erected on the Links to commemorate the occasion.

So, Leith Links has a significant sporting past but what of its future? There is no doubt that it has seen some improvements since the days that I played “fitba” on the Links during the “dinner break” at Leith Academy and the council has now unveiled plans that it would like to see endorsed to help secure its future.

The council conducted a consultation exercise in the summer of last year on “the masterplan for Leith Links” which generated 789 responses, with almost 70 per cent of responders stating that they lived in Leith and over 90 per cent of returns expressing a positive view of the proposals.

The council is now at the stage of taking forward development plans as outlined within the masterplan. They include redesigning the disused bowling greens into an “Activity Hub” as well as transforming the pavilion into a café, toilets and community space.

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A further range of proposals suitable for the Links has been developed in conjunction with Landscape Architects and have now been put out for public consultation.

They include, a streetscape style skatepark, bouldering rocks, Parkour and street gym, pump track/bike trail, roller rink, mixed-age play zone, children’s water play, pétanque court, basketball court, bike safety learning course and a play area aimed at teenagers.

The consultation document states: “To ensure development and designs suit a range of user groups, we welcome feedback, opinions and suggestions on all feasible proposals which would comprise this activity hub. Once we have received feedback to determine which designs to take forward, we will secure funding to begin development. The basis of this timeline therefore depends on these funding opportunities.” – and there’s the rub. Grand plans, but don’t build your hopes up as they will only go ahead if there is money available for the development of the proposals.

But that is the nature of the beast with all things initiated by the council and should not deter people from participating in this consultation exercise. Dubbed an “online survey” it can be found at consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk and closes on October 21. I trust that Leithers in particular will get involved and complete the short survey.

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