Neighbours want action as looters target old cottages

RESIDENTS in one of the city's plushest areas have demanded action from the owner of a derelict site after thieves were seen looting in broad daylight.

Homeowners in the Grange are furious that three disused cottages on the corner of Newbattle Terrace - where properties fetch an average of 1.2 million - and Whitehouse Loan have been left abandoned for three years.

The site has since been covered with 300 square metres of graffiti, which would cost 4,000 to remove, and become a hub for antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

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The three cottages - which are just two streets from the luxury homes of ex-RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin and former Scotland manager George Burley - were previously owned by the Church of Scotland, which originally developed them to house retired workers, and were sold three years ago.

At one stage Sunrise Senior Living proposed to build a care home on the site, although it was later sold on.

One council officer came across looters stripping metal from the vacant cottages during a visit, who then fled before police arrived, while according to one neighbour even the wealthy residents of the Grange's leafy lanes have been seen taking valuable flatstones from the decaying site.

A planning application was granted to build 14 residential properties on the site two years ago and developers originally had until at least May 2013 to carry out the work.

Dr Jean Swaffield, who lives around the corner on Pitsligo Road, said: "The cottages were originally residences for older people, and they had nice, well-maintained gardens. However now they have been empty for three years and I just worry about the quality of life around here.

"Two years ago there was an accident and the corner wall was knocked down and this metal fence has been sitting there, right on the pavement, since then. Since then the owners have put on fresh wood doors because people were entering them, but nothing since then. It's a terrible waste of a lovely site and a real eyesore, and it's very irresponsible for the owners to leave it in such a state."

One local resident, who asked not to be named, added: "I heard eastern Europeans had been stripping scrap materials but I've seen my own neighbours with wheelbarrows up there getting flatstones. The sooner the owners step in take care of this mess the better."

Councillor Paul Godzik, who represents Morningside and the Meadows, said: "It is clear that the site has become a magnet for antisocial behaviour and vandalism. The council has been in contact with the owner's representatives yet nothing has been done.

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"In my view the owner has to take some responsibility for their property, clean it up and stop it being a blight on the community.

"It is unfair on neighbours to leave it in the state that it is now in, and it is unfair on council taxpayers to expect the council to step in and clean it up every couple of years."

A spokesman for city-based Comprehensive Design Architects, which is handling the site for a private developer, said: "We are currently in discussions with the planning department regarding a fresh planning application for the Whitehouse Loan/Newbattle Terrace corner site.

"It is our client's intention to demolish these buildings and start the building work as soon as planning has been consented."