Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative

Earlier in the month I was at the launch of a report from the Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative.

The group, which is made up of local activists and community groups, wants to see the creation of a range of new local facilities through the regeneration of the canalside at the site of the former Scottish & Newcastle Brewery.

Through work with local people, a range of initial ideas for mixed use of the site have been developed. High on the priority list was an affordable and sustainable mix of housing in the area.  Edinburgh faces a real shortage of affordable housing so this could really provide benefits to the city.

A strong theme which emerged in discussions with local people was the need to ensure the houses incorporate renewable technologies for energy generation and that they are energy efficient. It has even been suggested that the area could use water from the canal as part of a heat exchange system to keep the homes warm.  This environmental ambition is a key part of the vision with hopes for space to be used for play parks, allotments and other green areas.

People are keen that any future development does not become soulless flats and that people who live in the area can form a real neighbourhood.  To help foster that idea, the group’s discussions also suggested including facilities such as a community hall, advice projects, and building strong links with local schools.  Part of the area has been earmarked as the preferred location for the new Boroughmuir High School which offers further exciting possibilities.

Tied into the idea of growing a community there has also been consideration of how the area could offer job opportunities through commercial activity.  Some ideas that were put forward were the creation of a micro-brewery (a nod to the site’s former resident); a mixed use market place that could host a range of food and craft markets and provide a venue during the festival season; and space for small-scale and light industrial businesses.

The development of the site also ties in with current moves to regenerate the canal itself, and the group are keen to use the canal as a focal point for recreation.  This could include improving facilities for people using the canal for boating,  improving the banks to be used as walk and cycle ways and ensuring facilities such as benches and public toilets to improve the amenity of the area.  The chance to create world class canoeing facilities was also put forward as an opportunity not to be missed.

Regenerating the canal also provides opportunities to present the area as an attraction for tourists.  There is a rich cultural history associated with the Fountainbridge area and particularly its industrial heritage which could be chronicled through a visitor centre offering educational opportunities.

During the visit, I was really impressed with the way the group has mobilised the local community to develop their ideas for the area.  There have been a few gatherings to bring local people together to discuss what they want to achieve and a steering group has been formed to build relationships with key people at the Council and local businesses.

The findings of the report demonstrate the high level of interest in the proposals from local people and businesses and I will be working to support the group taking their ideas forward to ensure the community is involved in consultation on the future of the site.