Water of Leith boardwalk plan floated for The Shore

Revamp: A £500,000 upgrade to the Shore has recently been completed.
Revamp: A £500,000 upgrade to the Shore has recently been completed.

Property developers have been accused of trying to "exploit public investment for private gain" by a former local councillor after revealing ambitious plans for the Shore in Leith.

The proposals, led by property firm Edinburgh MI, focus around a 'floating boardwalk' running along the east bank of the Water of Leith between the Sandport Place bridge and the Commercial Street bridge.

Architect Malcolm Fraser has been enlisted to produce the final designs.

Although the publicly accessible boardwalk plan is at such an early stage that no mock up images have been made public, the outline proposal is said to include a series of "ultra ultra modern" floating structures that could be used as cafes, bars and office units. They would be deliberately designed to contrast with the historic buildings on the other side of the street - many dating back hundreds of years.

News of the proposals has emerged just as a £500,000 revamp of the public realm in the area has been completed by the council.

Even though detailed proposals have yet to be made public, some local residents are said to be skeptical of the very idea of the "Sandport Boardwalk."

Writing on his new blog, Leith resident and former councillor for the area, Rob Munn said some people at a recent residents meeting where the proposals were first discussed were "lukewarm to hostile" at the prospect of more modern architecture in the Port of Leith.

He adds: "Malcolm Fraser is a renowned architect and capable of coming up with something interesting and challenging.

"The Council has recently spent a lot of public money improving the road, footways and general public realm at the Shore and it looks fantastic. These plans could change the whole look of those improvements and it could be argued exploit this public investment for private gain.

"One thing is clear - more public debate is needed on these proposals and much more detail of what is proposed needs to come into the public domain to allow as full a discussion as possible. There will be great interest in these proposals as the plans come forward and the public debate will be lively."

Edinburgh MI is based in the same building as Malcolm Fraser on Edinburgh's North Bridge and the well known architect and Mr Multon have teamed up to take the boardwalk proposals forwards.

The pair say they are keen to bring some high quality modern architecture to the Shore, drawing inspiration from the way other European cities have developed their inland waterways. But Mr Multon said that although his plans could give the cafe culture on the Shore an extra boost, they still have to take them to the planning committee. If any final plan gets the green light it could be a number of years before construction could start.

In the meantime, other local businesses are already planning to take advantage of the newly upgraded street.

At least three local businesses - including Martin Wishart's Michelin starred restaurant - are said to be making plans to put tables and chairs out onto the street for the first time.

Michelle Philips is Managing Director of Mimi's Bakehouse, a cafe with a reputation that is attracting people to the area in its own right. She said: "I'm absolutely delighted with the works on the Shore. I think it's really opened up the whole of the shore front, it's fantastic.

"I think we're trying to create a bit of cafe culture on the Shore here, and a lot of businesses are really pleased with the work that has happened. I'm looking forwards to getting some tables and chairs outside, which will be a first for us."

"People do tend to come down here, and I think because the Shore is looking so nice now, that people are being reintroduced to it. The vibe down here now on the Shore is amazing."

Whilst many locals have noticed teething troubles with the new traffic restrictions, the upgrade has also been largely welcomed by local residents too. George Johnson, Chair of the Friends of the Water of Leith Basin said: "Very quickly people have forgotten what it was like before, but I'm delighted with the changes, especially the lovely wide pavements.

"Already, we've had some Sundays with lots and lots of people floating down to the Shore. The atmosphere, even before it was finished has really changed, and we're seeing more tourists and more visitors."

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