On 10 August a City of Edinburgh Council meeting will discuss and potentially decide about the fate of the woodland, wildlife refuge and heritage site at Silverlea in the Muirhouse/Salvesens area of northwest Edinburgh. As the climate crisis worsens Edinburgh City Council is considering a destructive plan to build 142 houses on the site of the old Silverlea Care Home and surrounding woodland, once the site of Muirhouse Castle. Some of the trees on the site are centuries old.
The Save Our Silverlea campaign condemns the destruction of greenspace and the green belt in the deprived community of Muirhouse. Over half of the new development will be on the greenbelt – not the 14% claimed by the Council planning department. The Council itself concedes 30 trees will be destroyed and admits many more are at risk due to root damage during construction.
“If the bulldozers go onto the site there will be a massacre of many dozens of trees. Edinburgh Natural History Society have confirmed Silverlea is a wildlife refuge for bats, and foxes, deer and numerous birds and other fauna abound. These mature trees are sequestering carbon emissions. To destroy woodland and biodiversity in a climate crisis is criminal”, says Save Our Silverlea.
The Council’s “counter-argument” is that they have planted hundreds of trees along the road on the narrow strip of land called Silverknowes Park. These were planted out on a freezing February day on waterlogged soil and recent checks by locals showed that most saplings had failed to take root and were dead – hardly a replacement for the dozens of trees to be felled on the Silverlea heritage site.
Campaigners also denounce that the development would create huge tailbacks along the busy dual carriageway of Muirhouse Parkway, creating more pollution. This is due to there being only one entrance into Silverlea which will require a set of permanent traffic lights. (When the Council installed temporary traffic lights there last October for ongoing works on nearby blocks, the result was a traffic tailback as far as Quality Street in Davidsons Mains and, in the other direction, to W. Granton). There will be parking
chaos in the neighbouring Salvesens and Muirhouse areas since only a quarter of the new houses will have parking places.
Plus Save Our Silverlea emphasise: “We welcome new people into the Muirhouse/Salvesen community, but under-pressure local services like GP’s and schools need more resources. No new infrastructure is planned to cope with this sudden influx.”
The Save Our Silverlea campaign exposed how the City of Edinburgh Council broke planning law by failing to publish a Pre-planning Application Consultation (PAC) for the Silverlea development, and only did so in July when threatened with a legal challenge (though the PAC was subsequently posted on the Council’s Planning Portal to look like it had been there since September 2021.) The Council also tried to justify the development by claiming it was backed by the Muirhouse and Salvesens Community Council – despite that Community Council being defunct since late 2019. “All along, the Council have been trying to sneak the development through, behind the community’s back” says Save Our Silverlea. During the Covid pandemic the community only learned about the proposed development by having a card shoved through letterboxes inviting them to take part in a risible two-hour zoom “consultation” organised by the developers. No public meeting took place. A barrage of objections from residents effectively stalled the development at that time.
“As climate change threatens the future of humanity, we need to act to defend our green spaces. This land should be used for the local community – not to make £millions for greedy property developers. We need much more council/ social housing – build council houses on the brownfield sites where they are now building 1000s of private houses. But the Muirhouse/Salvesen Greenbelt has to be protected and the Silverlea site should be used as a community resource” declare Save Our Silverlea.
The Council Development Management Sub-Committee meets at 2.00pm* on Wednesday 10 August in the Dean of Guild Court Room in the City Chambers on the High Street – to hold a hearing on the “proposed residential development Silverlea Old Peoples Home, 14 Muirhouse Parkway, Edinburgh : application no. 21/05056/FUL.”
On Facebook – search for “Save Our Silverlea”
*note that this blog post was originally posted with the meeting taking place at 2.30pm. This is taking place at 2pm.