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Tollcross poised to lose fight for conservation area status

Tollcross is set to lose out on its bid to become one of the Capital's protected conservation areas - while plans to include neighbouring Bruntsfield are expected to get the go-ahead.

Community groups in Tollcross had hoped to be awarded the status as part of wider plans to regenerate the rundown area and ensure its history is not overshadowed by new development.

But the city's planning leader, Alan Henderson, has advised councillors not to award Tollcross the sought-after status as it lacks the required "coherent historic and architectural interest".

However, he believes nearby Bruntsfield merits the title because of its "historic and architectural character".

More than a quarter of the Capital is protected by conservation area status, designed to preserve and enhance the appearance of the city's key areas.

David Rintoul, chairman of Tollcross Community Council, which put forward the conservation status case, was disappointed by the news that the area will not be included.

He said: "The history of Tollcross is enormous. It's surrounded by conservation areas and this is the only spot that's not protected in any way.

"We have had listed buildings knocked down in Tollcross and we are losing a lot of our original culture. I'm so disappointed and feel very let down.

"I thought this was something that would help the area and was actually a necessity."

Plans to transform neglected Tollcross into a hub for shopping, dining and culture were unveiled earlier this year, outlining its potential to become a thriving "town centre".

Although the blueprint – called the Tollcross Viability and Improvement Study – has been welcomed with open arms by the Tollcross community, Mr Rintoul said the conservation area plans were mooted long before.

He added: "The study came after we started trying to raise the profile of the area to make it a conservation area. We have been working on this for about two years."

The community council's application stated: "With the number of large scale developments in the immediate vicinity, the older streets and buildings in the central parts of Tollcross are at risk of being overshadowed by new buildings, and the centre of Tollcross of being neglected.

"Conservation area status for Tollcross would ensure protection and present opportunities for environmental enhancement."

Tollcross councillor Chris Wigglesworth said he believed there was scope for the Georgian houses in Gilmore Place to be included in the Bruntsfield plans.

He said: "I am a little disappointed, but the main thing for the Tollcross area is to implement the recommendations of the improvement study. There is the possibility of a slight change to the Bruntsfield proposals and I'm going to propose that."

A group of Bruntsfield residents also spent two years working on their application.

Bridget Stevens, chairwoman of Merchiston Community Council, said: "It seems to me that Bruntsfield is an obvious candidate because there are a lot of interesting buildings.

"The group has worked very hard to get this and produced a lot of research, documents and presentations, and also lobbied councillors. This status will provide the general protection of buildings in the area and the environment and will protect against the construction of inappropriate buildings."

If councillors give the go-ahead to the proposals on Thursday, the Bruntsfield area will be incorporated into the existing Marchmont and Meadows Conservation Area.

Local councillor Sue Tritton added: "It's something that the residents have been angling for for some time, and I'm delighted that it's coming up and hope it goes through."

The earliest record of the Tollcross area is in a Royal Charter of 1439. Tolcors is typical of the early forms of the name, with Towcroce and Tolcroce being used in the 16th century.

Tollcross remained essentially rural until industrialisation in the 18th century.

By the early 20th century, the industrial basis of the area was weakening. The canal basins were closed in 1922 and filled in so Lothian House could be built.

The name Bruntsfield traces back to the "lands of Boroumore", recorded in the late 14th century as having been held by the late Richard Broune, King's sergeant or agent.

The estate name Brounisfeld was first recorded in 1452. Feld is early Scots, meaning open country.

Late Georgian and early Victorian maps show villas spreading along Bruntsfield Place and spreading outwards into Leamington Terrace and Viewforth. The classical Georgian detached villas at Bruntsfield Place are the only remnants of this phase of development.

Source: Gemma Fraser, Evening News, Saturday 14th April, 2007

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