Developers home in on Leith’s high rise problem

Twin tower blocks long seen as a blight on the landscape of Leith. Edinburgh. are finally to be given a facelift. The deserted high-rise flats Grampian and Caimgorrn House. empty for more than four years and still under round the clock security. have been bought from Edinburgh District Council hands by private developers.

The Edinburgh developers plan to transform the blocks into a series of flatlets intended for short-term rental in the private sector. It is a novel solution to what tnany regard as a 60s housing hangover. and one that is drawing a mixed response from those who live in the shadow of the twin blocks.

John Davidson. :1 development manager with Edinburgh District Council‘s housing department. explains what prompted the decision to release the properties into the private sector: ‘ln common with a number of our multi-storey blocks we were having

difficulty letting the flats. Eventually it got to the stage where more than half the flats were vacant.‘

This was nearly live years ago. Since then all remaining tenants have been moved out and the council has considered a number of options for dealing with the empty buildings. Refurbishment of the fast-decaying blocks proved too expensive (priced at several million pounds four years ago). and having them demolished a solution favoured by many locals was also to prove a bttdget breaker at about £l million.

The council has gone down the privatisation route before with the Muirhouse high-rise llats Martello Courts. known locally as Terror Towers. The council is confident that is also the right approach for the Grampian and Cairngorm blocks. ‘There probably still are people who want them demolished.‘ concedes

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Facelift: Leith's Cairngorm and Grampian blocks are due for redevelopment

Davidson. ‘liut I think there is increasingly a body of opinion in the

area that‘s saying “let‘s give thetn a chance‘. The sooner we get these flats back into active use the better and if this company can do that then it‘s all to the good.‘

Johnni MacKenzie-Anderson. founder of the neighbouring Kirkgate House resident‘s association. welcomes the prospective l‘acelil‘t for the Leith towerblocks. ‘l’or years they‘ve been white elephants.‘ he says. "l‘hey were very badly built. and we felt. an eyesore. I don‘t mind who gets them as long as something‘s done to make the area more viable again.‘ However. he has some reservations about the former council properties being siphoned off to the private sector. "l‘hat‘s a tnistake.‘ he says. ‘You‘re taking it away from the public housing stock. Council house sales are on the rise. they‘re not building any more. and there‘s less money for repairs going round the city.‘ (Ellie Carr)

Poverty bites students

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Poverty could be forcing record numbers of British students to drop out of further education, according to recent figures. In 1992-93, 25,000 UK university students left their courses apparently for non-academic reasons - a rise of 30 per cent in one year - says a report by the Committee for Vice Chancellors and Principals (CVCP).

‘Although it is not possible to calculate precisely the importance of financial hardship in a decision to leave, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that financial difficulties are responsible for much of the increase in students leaving courses,’ states the report.

Chairman of CVCP Dr Kenneth Edwards says: ‘Students are reluctant to take out their full loan entitlement because they fear they will be unable to meet the repayments.’

‘Students have to top up their grant, either through their parents, or through work,’ says Alberto Costa, president of the University of Glasgow’s Students Representative Council, which runs its own student job shop. ‘If not, they will simply not be able to continue as a student on the money the Government gives.’

Some students are claiming benefits illegally rather than risk taking out loans. ‘Students have to get money from somewhere,’ says Costa. ‘That may be from social security and by being economical with the truth.’ (Philip Cowan)

Paradise regained, but not televised

Green and white-clad fans will celebrate a homecoming next month as Celtic open a rebuilt l’arkhead stadium in Glasgow‘s east end alter a year of squatting at llampden l’at'k. As the big day approaches. however. a dispute over facilities for the media is still unresolved.

Television companies are unhappy with the proposed site for their cameras amid claims that they were forgotten about in the redevelopment. with the current scheme being a last-minute solution. Celtic want to build a media unit on top of the ‘sky boxes‘ —- corporate hospitality boxes which are

themselves at the top of the south stand.

Space in these has already been sold for the coming season. scuppering the plans of television companies who had hoped to use one of them.

According to Celtic. the issue is cut and dried: ‘We intend to open the redeveloped stadium on 5 August with a match against Newcastle. We are building a media gantry on top of the ‘sky box‘ hanging down from the south stand.‘ However. a spokesperson from the club concedes that the television companies were not happy with the proposal: ‘1 am not aware of how the discussions are progressing.’

Not well according to the BBC. for

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whom the idea is dead in the water. ‘Due to health and safety considerations we couldn‘t use that site.‘ says a BBC spokesperson. ‘We are still waiting for Celtic to offer something else.‘

For the Celtic support it doesn‘t matter. They just can’t wait to get back to the stadium that has struggled in the past to live up to the nickname


Celtic’s dream of paradise is resurrected

‘paradise‘. ‘lt is mighty impressive now.‘ says Jim Ward of the Celtic Supporters Association. ‘The fans hated Hampden Park. it was the most depressing place we have ever been.‘ And he has no sympathy for the television companies: ‘They are objecting to having to climb ladders, but they have been doing that for years.‘ (Stephen Naysmith)

Cyclists on the road to success

Following a successful publicity stunt demonstrating the speed of cycling as a means of commuting, Strathclyde Regional Council is ready to get on its bureaucratic bike.

The council has invited Glasgow Cycling Campaign to carry out further tests after an event last month, in which a cyclist beat a car driver and bus and train commuters in a journey from Newton Mearns to George Square. The new surveys are to


include a journey into the centre of Glasgow from Steppes and a shorter trip from Charing Cross to the roads department offices.

Ian Spinney of the Glasgow Cycle Campaign says: ‘We believe the bike is by a considerable margin the quickest way round a city. It is nimble and manoeuvrable and gets you from door to door. In a car you still have the problem of parking once you arrive.’

A mere 0.75 per cent of Glaswegians

cycle to work, compared with a tilt average of 4 per cent. Campaigners are pressing for more designated cycle routes, separating bikes from both pedestrians and traffic.

The new surveys will contribute to a document on cycling for the new single tier local authorities in the west. Whether the cyclist’s lot improves depends on the commitment of the new councils. (Stephen Naysmith)

4 The List 14-27 Jul 1995