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Canal strategy aims to unlock potential of 200 year old Edinburgh waterway

Canal strategy sets out plans to foster a renewed canal culture.

Canal boats at the Lochrin Basin

A plan that sets out a vision for the future of Edinburgh’s Union canal was launched at the Lochrin Basin today.

The plan, which sets out to foster a ‘canal culture’ in the city, has been developed following months of community consultation.

At the launch officials were keen to emphasise the Canal Strategy was not just another wishlist, highlighting a series of developments that are to go ahead in the coming months.

These include the construction of a new secondary school on part of the former Fountainbridge Brewery site, the development of a £2.5m ‘centre of excellence’ for water sports at Meggetland, and a new private development by Cala Homes at Ratho that will see 20 new berths for houseboats added to the waterway.

Speaking at the launch Councillor Tim McKay said: “What we’re trying to do is use the canal as the driver for economic development in the city.

“The old Fountainbridge Brewery site has been lying dormant for ages. It’s now been bought over by the council. Part of that land that’s been bought over will be used to build a school and hopefully the rest of the site will be developed out.

“Hopefully the school can be used as a trigger to make more happen in the area. And what we hope is that the same effect will roll along the canal over the coming months.”

Jamie Woodfield, Development Manager for British Waterways was also present at the launch event.

He said: “British Waterways are very, very excited to be working with the council on this. The canal is obviously an asset that we hold very dear to our hearts.

“At Ratho, we’re already looking at acquiring a site for car parking so that we expand the number of residential moorings on the canal. Cala Homes, are about to start work on a basin which will provide about 20 berths on the canal, so Ratho is already a fantastic spot and we’re going to be building on that.”

“At Hailes Park Quarry we have the start of what potentially might be a canoe facility there. At Meggetland the rowing centre has a very, very definite chance of going ahead. We’ve now got Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh University, George Watsons and George Heriots, and the St Andrew Boat Club, all about to go under one roof for what will be a £2.5million centre of excellence for rowing sports.”

“At Harrison Park, if the Forth Canoe Club relocate to Hailes Park, Harrison Park could become a new focus for residential moorings. Then at Edinburgh Quay, we’ve got a number of sites where development is going on.”

“We now look forward to building on the consultation, working with the City of Edinburgh Council and local waterside communities to bring this exciting vision to life.”

Stan Reeves, is a member of the community led, Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative which aims to help local residents influence the development of the former brewery sites along the canal. He said: “The canal strategy is very general. Everything they’re interested in, we’re interested in. I do think they’re genuinely trying, but actually the devil is in the detail.”

“Our group will be working to try to ensure that the development is community friendly, that there is a good social mix and opportunities for other activities.

“Edinburgh has been dogged by too many large scale developments and I think that they’ve actually not been that successful. Look at the Quatermile for instance – it’s still full of huge empty units. So we’ll be arguing for a more human scale development along the canal as this thing progresses.”

The Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative are planning a community event to gather local views on the future of the Fountainbridge brewery site on Saturday the 18th of February at 10.30am in Tollcross community centre. For more information on the meeting you can email the group at: fountainbridgeci@gmail.com

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