Major project to revive historic park begins

A major project to restore Edinburgh’s historic Saughton Park got under way today, with the official commencement of a year-long programme of work.

Children at ground breaking ceremony for Saughton Park project
Children at the ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of major works at Saughton Park

The milestone sees the culmination of five years’ effort to establish the park’s £5.2m redevelopment, which has been made possible thanks to £3.8 million of Heritage Lottery Funding.

On Tuesday, contractors P1 Solutions performed a ceremonial sod-cutting in the Walled Garden to commemorate the occasion, joined by Council officials, parks staff and Heritage Lottery Fund representatives.

Also present were Friends of Saughton Park members, who have worked closely with the Council and other partners to raise funds and engage with the community throughout the process.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “I am delighted to see work begin on Saughton Park, which follows a great deal of planning and engagement with the community by all those involved.

“This historic park will benefit immensely from the major restoration about to commence, as will the public who use it, and I look forward to seeing the park reclaim its original splendour as a result.”

Lucy Casot, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, said “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of our public parks. Vital to our well-being and essential to biodiversity, they are highly valued spaces enjoyed daily by people from all walks of life. Saughton Park, tucked away in the South West of Edinburgh, is one of the latest parks to benefit from over £64m of National Lottery funding, which over the last 20 years has played a crucial role in revitalising over 65 parks across Scotland.”

Shona Nelson, Chair of Friends of Saughton Park, said: “The Friends of Saughton Park are very excited to see the redevelopment work start.  Saughton Park is a little gem in the West of Edinburgh, over the last three and a half years we have been singing its praises not just locally but far and wide. We are looking forward to securing the future of the park for the next 100 years!”

First established in the 17th century on the grounds of Saughtonhall House, which later became an asylum, the gardens were purchased by the Council in the early 1900s for recreational use by the people of Gorgie and Saughton.

In 1908, Saughton Park was redesigned to accommodate the Scottish National Exhibition, when more than 3.5m visitors flocked to enjoy the attractions. It is hoped that the park’s restoration will recapture the spirit of the time, refreshing some of the key features installed for the Exhibition, including the bandstand, botanic garden and winter garden.

Amongst other improvements will be the restoration of the park’s stables as a community venue and base for project partners the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society (The Caley), the construction of a new café and the repair and installation of furniture, lighting and paths across the site.

In addition, an ongoing management plan will see the development of a full programme of events and activities, volunteering opportunities and work towards ensuring the park achieves Green Flag status.

Consultation was recently carried out on new cycle routes linking the park with the city centre, which will be complemented by £500,000 recently awarded to the Saughton Park Restoration Project by Sustrans Community Links programme. Funding will enable upgrades to the park’s path network and off-road links around the neighbourhood.

The majority of the park will be closed during the construction phase, including the Balgreen entrance and car park.  The main east-west path, which is part of the Water of Leith Walkway and the John Muir Way, is also closed to allow re-surfacing and diversionary routes have been set up for pedestrians and cyclists.  In addition, the Gorgie Bridge entrance is closed until further notice to allow the construction of the new paths to the south of the park.  Further closures will be put in place throughout the construction phase, with full details available on the Council website and on notices at the site.

It is anticipated that the newly restored park will be fully opened by August 2018. Find out more about the project on the Council website.

Saughton Park masterplan includes:

  • Restoration of the walled garden and winter garden;
  • Reinstatement of the bandstand
  • Restoration of the stables as a new community venue and base for the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society
  • Construction of a new cafe and public toilet facilities;
  • Conserving all trees, woodlands and hedges and improving biodiversity across the site
  • Repairing and/or installing furniture, lighting, paths and signage
  • Improving car parks, entrances and developing circuit routes for walking, running and health activities
  • Putting management and maintenance regimes in place to ensure park achieves Green Flag status
  • Developing a full programme of events and activities which meets the needs and interests of a wide range of park users and offers volunteer and learning opportunities for all to enjoy
  • Separate to the Heritage Lottery Fund project, it is also planned to improve the children’s playground, and to install a new micro-hydro scheme and ground source heating system.

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