Residents demand barriers amid fears of ghetto effect
HOMEOWNERS in an Edinburgh suburb are backing plans to have paths leading to a neighbouring community bricked up over claims the route has been the source of antisocial behaviour and vandalism.
Residents in Silverknowes have asked city leaders to consider the radical move of permanently closing off three access points leading to nearby Muirhouse, following a spate of incidents last year which they blamed on “marauding youths” from the area causing “mayhem”.
But fears have been raised that the plans could lead to tension between the two areas.
Options set to be put to the council next week include building walls to close off the routes, or installing a locked gate to ensure access is restricted at nights.
Community leaders in the north-west suburb say smashed windows, scratched vehicles and attempted break-ins stemmed from the neighbouring area.
However, shutting off the area would leave school children with a long detour along a busy main road, and residents in Muirhouse have opposed the plans, insisting incidents were isolated and an increase in police patrols and new CCTV have cut down on trouble overnight.
Next week, both parties will address Edinburgh City Council in an attempt to persuade the local authority to back their solution.
Deputy city leader Steve Cardownie said, despite amicable discussions with both sides, it had not been possible to come to a compromise, and the city’s transport committee would have to make the decision.
Officials have recommended antisocial behaviour be tackled rather than closing off the route, but the final decision lies with councillors next Thursday.
Councillor Cardownie said: “The Silverknowes community are concerned about antisocial behaviour on their doorstep and people in Muirhouse don’t want to be ghettoised, and are arguing that the solution lies with the police.
“Although I don’t know what the decision will be, I would like to say the way both communities have handled this, despite opposing views, has been exemplary.”
A series of issues were reported to police in October and November last year followed by police patrols in the areas and the investment of £100,000 in new lighting.
A survey of nearly 300 residents, largely from Silverknowes, found 80 per cent wanted either complete closure or gates to close off the area in the evenings.
Rod Alexander, chair of the Davidson’s Mains and Silverknowes Association, said the move was necessary. He wrote: “Over one weekend in October 2011, there was close to what can only be described as mayhem in Silverknowes Eastway and the immediately adjoining streets in Silverknowes.
“It was caused by marauding youths entering Silverknowes Eastway from Muirhouse Drive There were 20 windows smashed and 14 cars damaged.
“There is little dispute that the problem was mainly caused by groups of youths from Muirhouse. In the opinion of the residents the only realistic solution on offer was the closure of the pathways.”
He added: “The police have made it clear that they cannot ensure a consistent high level of attendance in Silverknowes without the risk of negative effects on policing in other parts of the city.”
Roy Douglas, chair of the Muirhouse/Salvesen Community Council, said: “The closure of this path would really damage how the communities get on with each other. We’re trying to ensure our young people respect their neighbours and when you start boarding up communities it goes against that.
“There were meetings held in Silverknowes around the time of this trouble and the talk was all about ‘thugs coming from Muirhouse’. Muirhouse is changing and although there are still issues with antisocial behaviour here, that is the case everywhere.”
Colin Keir, Edinburgh Western MSP, said: “I hope that, whatever happens here, there is an amicable discussion and that both sides can come to an agreement.”
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