Monday, 9 April 2012

Boardwalk Empire?

Rob Munn reports on a radical new proposal for the Water of Leith Basin

Pardon the title! I'm not likening the Shore to hit US TV show Boardwalk Empire but Sandport Boadwalk is the working title for a plan to change the Water of Leith basin as we know it.
Some years back a company called Water of Leith 2000 put forward plans for barges along the shore line originally I think the plan was to use them as houseboats. However the plans changed to office use and today the barges moored between Malmaison and the Ship on the Shore house a variety of offices.

Expansion of this scheme upstream through the inner basin and on to Bonnington weir at the Quilts had so far not materialised. Water of Leith 2000 put their property (the shoreline on both sides) up for sale by auction in 2009 but failed to find a single bidder.
Recently it was revealed that Water of Leith 2000 had changed into Bluefield International and some sort of new plan was in the offing. Friends of the Water of Leith Basin made contact and suggested that once they had some ideas to share they would be happy to host a presentation at one of their meetings. On 4th April as part of a General Meeting of FoWL.B a presentation was made of the proposal 'Sandport Boardwalk' by well known Edinburgh architect Malcolm Fraser. It was tentative - Malcolm had only got involved about a week before the meeting. He stressed that what was proposed would balance commercial use (that's the bit that will make the proposal economically viable) and public space (the boardwalk bit). There are no definite plans yet and planning permission will have to be sought and further detailed public consultation would be required.
There were concerns raised at the meeting regarding visual impact, the consequences of changing the Shore in this way, practicalities such as access and increased pressure on parking in the area. As the proposed structures would float as the barges do it was pointed out that the silting up of the inner basin could scupper the plans.
I feel the plans should be more fully fleshed out before being exposed to full public scrutiny and consultation. I certainly want to see more about what these structures would look like and how they might add to the Leith Shore. It may be that some of it will find support and some of it won't. Malcolm Fraser is a renowned architect and extremely capable of coming up with something interesting and challenging. I would welcome more detail to the plans and importantly more public debate on what local people and businesses would like to see.
The Friends of the Water of Leith Basin are to be thanked for organising this initial presentation on Bluefield's proposals.
Wider public consultation will I'm sure be lively.