Partial demolition of famous Gorgie Farm mural was necessary, say developers

Developers raze top portion of famous farm mural

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 1:51 pm
The upper portion of the famous mural has been demolished. Picture: TSPL

One of Gorgie's most beloved and recognisable landmarks has been partially destroyed after bosses of a new housing development deemed it unsafe.

The boundary wall at Springwell House on Gorgie Road - which features the Gorgie Farm mural - has been dramatically reduced in height after developers AMA Homes raised safety fears that it could collapse.

The demolition comes just weeks after it was announced that Gorgie City Farm had gone into liquidation with the loss of 23 jobs.

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Developers AMA Homes say the wall was partially demolished on safety grounds.

A 'Save Gorgie Farm' fundraiser, which was set up in the wake of the popular farm's closure, reached its £100,000 target on 28 November, but the future of the site remains uncertain.

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AMA Group Managing Director Mike Afshar said an anonymous passerby alerted the firm to a dangerous crack in the stone wall bordering the site.

He said: "Somebody travelling by the site on a double-decker bus realised there was a crack on the top section of the wall at Gorgie Farm. They alerted us just as we were about to purchase the site. We already had a planning application there.

The colourful mural is a local landmark and visible from the street. Picture: JPIMedia

"Soon after the purchase we had contact with a local councillor who asked us on safety grounds to have a look at it and sort it."

Due for completion next winter, AMA are in the middle of building and converting 48 new homes on the site that surrounds the former Springwell Hospital and social work centre. Dating from the Victorian era, the listed hospital building is being retained and refurbished as part of the development.

Having sent in surveyors to inspect the damage of the boundary wall, Mr Afshar said it was clear the whole upper section of it would need to be demolished on safety grounds.

He added: "Over a number of years there were a number of iterations to it; some of it in brick, some it had railings in, some of it had little to no foundations. It was in danger (of falling down)."

The mural is at least 35 years old. Picture: Gorgie City Farm

Mr Afshar told the Evening News that AMA notified Gorgie Farm chief executive Iain Herbert of the issue and that Mr Herbert had given the developer the green light to press on with the wall's partial removal. He said that AMA offered to front the cost of the demolition works themselves as Gorgie City Farm was short on funds.

He explained: "They (Gorgie Farm) had an internal meeting and gave us the consent to go ahead.

"We realised that the work had to be done on safety grounds, they didn't have any money. We thought as our contribution to dealing with the development and the community, we'll just do the work for nothing."

Mr Afshar admitted it was regrettable that the mural, a prominent local landmark, had to be chopped in half, but said it was paramount that safety came first.

He added: "It was absolutely (regrettable), but I think the safety grounds is the one that is the most important.

"We have to take our professional responsibility seriously and if a mural has to be taken down that's not the deciding factor; it's safety grounds, if somebody gets hurt or injured as a result of stone falling from a high level."

Speaking on behalf of Edinburgh Community Farm, volunteer and former staff member of Gorgie City Farm, Hannah Ryan, who set up the £100,000 fundraiser to secure a future for the site, played down the importance of the half-demolished mural, pointing out that it is the farm's "ethos" which her group seeks to save.

She said: "The site of former Gorgie City Farm is held up by bricks and mortar but is made of memories, people, determination and spirit. No matter what happens aesthetically it's the ethos that we are fighting to save. For the community, for the volunteers and for the future generation to grow in."

The hope is for money raised to go towards any new venture which comes in with the right ethos but, if not, the funds will be donated to Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and SAMH (The Scottish Association for Mental Health), as stated on the GoFundMe page.

A council spokeswoman said: “After a survey the wall was found to be in need of repair and an unstable portion was removed following an agreement between the developer and Gorgie City Farm."