Vandalism bill withers as garden blossoms

A SCHOOL'S vandalism repair bill has been slashed after youngsters in the area were given the opportunity to work on a community garden.

A group of youths have transformed the area behind Magdalene Community Centre and within the grounds of Brunstane Primary School into a community garden. It officially opened to the public at the weekend.

Youth worker Rab Hogg, 31, who has been overseeing the project, said Brunstane Primary School spent around 20,000 on repairs following acts of vandalism during summer 2008, compared to just 900 for the whole of the last year.

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He said: "It shows that if you put something on for the youths to do, you don't need to be spending major money on vandalism repairs because there is no vandalism happening."

Around 36 youths were involved in the project which started last July, with some dedicated youngsters spending three hours each day after school at the garden, as well as a minimum of 14 hours over the weekend.

Some of those who helped with the garden were involved in last year's vandalism at Brunstane Primary School, which was daubed with graffiti. They offered their help to make up for what they had done.

Portobello High School pupil Ross McCaldin, 16, was one of the youths involved in the graffiti. He has helped with the garden from the start.

He said: "The vandalism was obviously a stupid thing to do but when I look back on everything we have done in the garden, we know that we have made amends and everybody in the community has put it in the past. I personally think the garden looks absolutely fantastic."

The garden features raised planters, a three-tier octagonal planter, a table and picnic benches for parents waiting for their children coming out of school.

Vegetables including onions, leeks, beetroot, peas and brussel sprouts can also now be grown in the garden.

The local youths, who ranged in age from around 11 to 20, applied to Scotland In Focus for funding and received 1,000.

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Local politicians and justice secretary Kenny MacAskill were invited to attend Saturday's launch.