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October 5, 2011

Who’s telling the truth?

Take a stroll through Granton in Edinburgh and you’ll be confronted by two large advertising hoardings proclaiming that the site of a historic walled garden has been ‘gifted to the community’. Except the Council, who own the land, beg to differ. They say they’ve already sold the land to a developer and accuse the community of spreading ‘untruths’. Granton Community Partnership admit that their billboard is a bit cheeky but believe their exciting plans for the site deserve a hearing

Michael Blakley, Edinburgh Evening News, 30 September 2011

A PUBLIC consultation costing £10,000 into plans for an outdoor swimming pool, arts village and garden festival at Edinburgh’s waterfront is to go ahead – despite the city council today announcing it has sold the land to someone else.

Council-owned development firm Waterfront Edinburgh has sold the historic Walled Garden site in Granton – which community groups wanted to use for the Granton sur Mer project – to THI Healthcare Development for £1 million.

The company has confirmed it will use the 3.5-acre site off West Shore Road that includes the walled garden to create a care home for the elderly.

But the Granton Community Partnership (GCP) – the group behind the Granton sur Mer project – has refused to concede defeat on its vision for the site and will launch a public consultation, funded by a £10,000 lottery grant from Awards for All, on Monday.

The consultation will include two advertising billboards near the walled garden site reading “Land gifted to the community”, which has led to city leaders accusing the group of lying to the public.

Ross McEwan, project manager at Art in Architecture, which is leading the GCP, said: “We are being provocative by saying they have gifted us land.

“They have told people there is a planning application in for a care home when there isn’t so if they can do that then we can do this.”

And he insisted that he won’t give up on his hopes for the site as the sale to THI is subject to it gaining planning consent.

He said: “We will carry on because this is subject to planning and, if anything, this makes us even more determined.

“Their plans are completely inappropriate for that site and will not do anything to progress the regeneration of the waterfront. If anything, it will regress the regeneration of the waterfront.”

It has been claimed that the Granton sur Mer project could have attracted up to 250,000 people a year to the area.

But Cllr Tom Buchanan, chair of Waterfront Edinburgh, criticised the group’s claim about the land being gifted.

He said: “That is not provocative – that is telling a non-truth. I can be provocative in saying something but I would not put out an advert that is telling an untruth just to get a reaction.”

He also said that the council has “a legal duty” to secure the best value for the site.

THI is currently drawing up plans for a site and will have to submit a full planning application.

Carl Lewis, chief executive of THI Healthcare Development, said: “THI is proud to be able to bring life back into the Walled Garden site through its regeneration proposal for this and the adjoining site and thereby to be a part of the regeneration renaissance of the Edinburgh Waterfront.”