The disused tennis courts on Leith Links have been an eyesore for many a year.
When Greener Leith first got going, one of our early projects, The Leith Links Ask consultation, suggested that there was public support for bringing back the tennis courts there. It was also mooted back then in 2008 that a “Leith botanics” or community garden could be established there.
Then Leith Athletic proposed that the site be converted into an all weather football pitch for the club to train on.
Later again, council staff went some way down the road of investigating the scope for converting the site into allotments.
Today, tennis courts are being built on Leith Links as we write, but not on this site, and Leith Athletic got their all weather pitch – but at Meadowbank – and so the original tennis court site persists as an underused eyesore.
The status of the council plan to convert the site into allotments remains uncertain, although it’s understood that the plan is currently unfunded.
And of course, Greener Leith ended up planting the Leith Links Children’s Orchard.
Enter another community group, Leith Community Crops and Pots. They have circulated details of another plan for the tennis court site, which you can see in the photo above, and are seeking expressions of local support for their plan.
As you can see, the proposal is focused around creating a community food growing space.
It incorporates pretty much everything a fully functioning community garden would need, from recycling points to raised beds, as well as some things you might not expect like an information centre and a “Tai Chi and Yoga Garden.”
It as apparently early days for the proposal, as no details of how the capital or running costs for the garden would be funded are included in the circulated proposal. It’s also not clear how the project will accommodate the strict laws that apply on the links, which seem to restrict the construction of almost anything in the park.
The City of Edinburgh Council Confirmation Act (1991) expressly prohibits the construction of anything on Leith Links apart from, “Bandstands, public conveniences, police boxes and buildings for housing the apparatus for the supply of electricity or gas.”
Now lest you think that these somewhat arbitrary sounding rules can safely be ignored for a good project with lots of public support – that’s sadly not the case.
The Leith Rules Golf Society know only too well about how tricky it is to comply with the rules. They have found that it will ultimately require a special bill at Holyrood, and extra investment in special security measures, just to get permission to erect a statue in the park.
Despite these potential hurdles, few would doubt that something needs to happen in that space, as it has lain underused for far too long.
It is understood that the proposals will be discussed by the Leith Links Community Council at their September meeting too.