New vision for Porty's prom

A QUIET stretch of Portobello promenade would be transformed into a busy parade under plans to regenerate a rundown part of the seaside suburb.

The city council has hired consultants to draw up a masterplan for breathing new life into an area dubbed "the gateway to Portobello".

The idea is to turn light industrial land around the north of the High Street into a thriving neighbourhood with new shops, small businesses and housing.

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Seafront restaurants and new paths leading from the High Street to the promenade are among the ideas that will be explored.

The possibility of creating an underground car park on the site of council-owned five-a-side football pitches off the High Street has also been put forward by council officials.

The masterplan will cover 17 hectares of private and council-owned land, including Baileyfield Industrial Estate, the all-weather sports pitches and the former Scottish Power offices.

The Figgate Burn is likely to be central to the vision, with a wooded walkway along it between the High Street and the promenade among the plans. The car park to the south east of the burn, in Bridge Street, has been earmarked for housing.

Councillor Lawrence Marshall said: "The masterplan is an attempt to get the High Street to look like the High Street right from the gateway to Portobello.

"I would like to see restaurants open up on the prom and this has not happened so far due to a lack of premises. It would be nice to attract to Portobello the kind of restaurants that exist in Leith.

"It would also be nice if this could lead to a better mix of commercial shops in the area."

Informal consultation with residents has indicated they would like to see art workshops, affordable housing, waterfront restaurants, new independent shops and cycle routes along the prom.

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Robert Gatliff, chairman of Portobello Community Council, added: "There is a lot of support for family housing and some of us would also like to see a landmark building at the entrance to Portobello so people can recognise that they are entering Portobello.

"We have always wanted to have restaurants and cafes along the prom. People go to Leith because of the number of restaurants and they know they will always get in somewhere without booking.

"Now that the consultants are in place, hopefully all these ideas will come together.

"It has taken forever to get to this stage so it would be nice to get started as soon as possible."

Linlithgow-based consultants Cadell2 will now work with landowners, the council and local residents to redesign the area.

BL Developments - which bought the old Scottish Power site in December 2005 after controversial plans to build a superstore on the site were rejected at a public enquiry - is one of the landowners.

It unveiled plans at the end of last year to build 500 homes there but agreed to wait until the council drew up its regeneration blueprint before it set the ball rolling.

Managing director Phil Myerscough said: "As the largest affected landowner, BL Developments is delighted and indeed very excited about the appointment of Cadell2 and looks forward to working closely with them, the council, and the Portobello community during the masterplan consultation process."

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Councillor Trevor Davies, the city's planning convener, said: "Cadell2 have a strong track record in delivering innovative urban design, with projects such as The Drum housing development in Bo'ness to their credit. I think they will bring a fresh look at this.

"I promised the local people we would start the consultation with a blank piece of paper, and that is what we will do. The only thing I'm sorry about it that it's taken so long to get going."