Plants being lined up to plug Capital's gap sites

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GAP sites across the Capital would be given a "green facelift" under plans being considered by council chiefs.

Officials have been ordered to open talks with developers on ways to make a number of high-profile empty sites, such as Caltongate and former brewery land at Fountainbridge, more attractive by landscaping them with grass and plants.

It is hoped that some sites can be made into public green spaces until the property market picks up and they are built on.

The move follows on from the decision by developers behind the massive Springside scheme in Fountainbridge to create gardens on land where they were hoping to build offices.

Officials will prepare a report for the June full council meeting which will identify sites where work could be carried out and any problems that the council might face if it undertakes the project.

Last week, the Evening News revealed that the massive Caltongate site is set to lie empty for at least a year after the Bank of Scotland ordered its administrators not to sell the site on the cheap.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "If you consider years ago Edinburgh had a whole series of gap sites around the Old Town then this is obviously something we want to avoid.

"The officials will approach developers to see what can be done in each case or what impediments there are, but the council is keen to support keeping these sites in as safe and attractive condition as possible.

"However, it will clearly not be possible in every case." One of the first city gap sites to be greened over will be at the former Fountain Brewery site.

Developers AMA, Grosvenor and Royal Bank of Scotland had wanted to build an office or hotel development on the site but the economic slowdown has put these plans on hold.

So instead, they plan to landscape the area, which is part of the huge Springside development. Among the other gap sites which are likely to be considered by officials are the Buredi site opposite Springside and Shrubhill off Leith Walk, where plans for a student hall complex have stalled.

Councillor Steve Burgess, the city's Green Party environment spokesman, said: "We need to make sure these sites are secure but, given their locations, it is important that we look at landscaping, particularly if they are going to be lying empty for a while.

"Caltongate is the one site which really stands out, if you're up on Regent Road looking down it is a major eyesore and it is a blight on the city centre which we need to address.

"Also, if we can plant grass and possibly wildflowers then you can think about opening up the area to people who live nearby."