Bid to bring new life to parks

FORGOTTEN gardens across the Capital are set to be opened to the public for the first time under plans being considered by council chiefs.

A number of green spaces, including sites in Newington, Leith and Fountainbridge, are set to be given a new lease of life under the proposals.

Plans to open the council-owned areas to the public come after landlords vetoed attempts to open up private parks in the New Town.

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Now council bosses have put forward plans to open up gardens at St Patrick Square, Gardner's Crescent, Hill Square, Pleasance Square and Gayfield Square.

It comes after the multi-million-pound revamp of St Andrew Square Garden in 2008, the first time the area had been opened to the public in its 238-year history.

Derek Ainsley, chairman of the Friends of Gardner's Crescent, said locals had already raised money to improve the gardens, but said he would be "delighted" to receive council support.

He said: "The work has been held up for the past two-and-a-half years by Scottish Power putting in new cables.

"The gardens were a bit shabby before, so we'd be delighted to get council support."

There is currently no funding allocated for any of the work, and the council admits it may be difficult in the "current economic climate", but it is likely a 50,000 study and some preliminary design work will get the go-ahead from councillors.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the council's environment leader, said: "The opening up of St Andrew Square Garden to the public has been an enormous success.

"Edinburgh is fortunate to have many wonderful parks and green spaces, and there are also a number of city-centre gardens, some in council ownership, that have the potential to be improved should funding become available."

He added: "Discussions are ongoing over the possible future development of a number of sites, and the views of the community and, where appropriate, private owners will be paramount to deciding how these progress."

Earlier this year an annual meeting of the 11 owners of Charlotte Square properties – which include Rangers owner Sir David Murray and property tycoon Walter Scott – rejected the council's plan to open it permanently to the public. They said the garden did not need an upgrade and that opening it annually for the Book Festival provided enough public access.

Your Say: Is re-opening gardens a good use of money?

David Poole, 78, retired engineer, Mayfield Road: "As long as they don't get a lot of trouble from drunks, it's a good idea."

Jenny Mollison, 61, housewife, Inveresk Village: "Green space is the lifeblood of the city and I think it's a really good use of money."

Alex Paterson, 63, joiner, Lochend Road: "If they can keep down the mess, it would be wonderful. They're nice squares, they should be open to the public."