Royal Botanic Gardens plans anger residents

The view from a house in Inverleith Gardens. Picture: Jane Barlow

The view from a house in Inverleith Gardens. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden has become involved in a planning row in which it has been accused of riding roughshod over its neighbours.

The unseemly spat focuses on the Botanics’ proposal to build what has been described as “brutalist” polytunnels and glasshouses for its nursery.

Residents Morris Grassie, David Carver, Marion Ralls and Alan Carson. Picture: Jane Barlow

Residents Morris Grassie, David Carver, Marion Ralls and Alan Carson. Picture: Jane Barlow

Bosses of the famous gardens claim residents’ views won’t be affected by their buildings, as they plan to place attractive grassed turf on the roof of 20ft high hangars to make them more “sympathetic” to the des-res area.

But irate householders say the proposals will lead to light, noise and air pollution in the conservation area – where many homes are valued at more than £1 million.

The development – in the annex of the Botanic Gardens – is surrounded on three sides by houses in Inverleith Gardens, Inverleith Avenue, Montagu Terrace and Inverleith Avenue South.

Residents in these streets are now appealing to Edinburgh City Council for the plans to be reconsidered.

Protest group chairman Morris Grassie, a former lecturer at Edinburgh University, who has lived in the area for 50 years, said: “This is a huge development. The Botanics have not treated us fairly and these plans, including brutalist industrial greenhouses and vehicle sheds – some as high as 24 feet – would significantly reduce green space in north Edinburgh.

“It’s been a battle ever since it was announced because they have pushed ahead and have refused to compromise in any way. They’ve offered to tart it up by putting a seeded roof on it but, to be honest, we don’t really care.”

Mr Grassie said they believe an alternative location on lower ground would be better.

Fellow resident David Carver, 76, also a retired lecturer, said a lack of information had driven residents mad. He said: “We would have liked a meeting between the Botanics from the beginning rather than the residents having to pick up bits of information bit by bit.”

But a spokeswoman for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh said the proposals are essential to maintain its “world-class reputation” in plant sciences and conservation.

She said: “The works do not amount to industrialisation. As the site is not open to the public, there is no loss of publicly accessible open space.

“Our plans are appropriate to the function of the site, with the application requesting additional polytunnels and one glasshouse for growing new plants, with a small staff building and a vehicle shed.”

She insisted they had agreed to scale back the development after consulting neighbours.

She said: “After extensive consultation with these neighbours, we reduced building heights, reduced the number of buildings proposed, and we have committed to using sympathetic materials.”

The flashpoint will be considered by the council’s Development Management Sub-Committee later today.

AWARD-WINNING ATTRACTION

CURRENTLY gearing up for its busy summer season, the Botanics are one of the most visited and best loved attractions in the city.

We told last month how it was praised in the Scottish Thistle Awards, where it was named the best visitor attraction and the best nature based experience. Its bosses know good relationships with the surrounding community are key to winning such accolades.

However, critics accused garden bosses of being out of touch earlier this year when it was revealed an academic from Heriot-Watt was being paid £8000 to work out how to make the gardens more attractive to the working classes.

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