But now angry residents are battling plans to build new homes on the site of 90-year-old allotments at Telferton, between Craigentinny and Portobello.
Proposals have been lodged by Bett Homes to construct 32 flats and houses – despite the fact the area is currently designated “open land” in the council’s city-wide planning blueprint.
Bosses at Bett Homes, which owns the land, said the scheme will replace the current “unapproved” allotments with 38 new plots to be managed by the council.
But residents argued the development would see a 70 per cent reduction in plot space and harm wildlife, and have pledged to do “everything they can” to block the proposals.
Bett Homes, the Scottish operation of parent company Avant Homes, said it would offer the new allotments to the council for free as part of its housebuilding plans.
With huge waiting lists for allotments across the city, the developer said it would ultimately fall to the council to decide who would be given the new plots, but that it would like to see those currently working the informal allotments to be given priority.
The waiting list to get an allotment in Edinburgh is currently estimated to be around ten years, with annual rents of £100 for a full plot.
The Craigentinny and Telferton Allotments are operated on private land owned by Avant Homes and are not official council plots, but have been a feature of the area for the last 90 years.
Rachel Purnell, a representative of the allotments, said the site’s 85 plots were “valued by hundreds of local people.”
She said: “These allotments add value to our quality of life – they provide social contact and a sense of belonging for retired and isolated people; experienced gardeners share skills and knowledge that would otherwise be lost and families introduce their children to growing food and biodiversity in precious urban green space.
“The site has been protected as open space for over six years and previous attempts by the property developer to build on the site have been refused.”
Andrew Trigger, strategic land manager at Avant Homes, said: “This development will not only upgrade the allotments at Telferton but also deliver a modest number of attractive houses close to the centre of Edinburgh whilst maintaining the character of the area.
“We understand that the allotments have been on the site since the 1920s and we want to ensure that legacy continues.
“However, at the moment, the plots exist without any agreement or legal arrangement with the landowner, meaning there is no security for those working the land.
“The allotments are also not up to the modern standards seen elsewhere and are not part of the City of Edinburgh Council allotment stock.”
A public exhibition detailing the plans will be held at Wilson Memorial Church in Portobello Road from 3pm today.