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Botanic Garden Helps Urban Regeneration

24 July 2006

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is helping to get an urban regeneration project off the ground in Scotland's capital. Native flower beds and fruit trees are to be planted in a community garden to be sited on disused tennis courts in a run-down part of the city. The aim is to conserve native plants and attract wildlife including insects, birds and bats, as well benefiting local residents and improving the area.

Local schools are to be invited to help plan the garden, which design experts at the Botanics will then help turn into reality. A pond, a giant chess board, a sculpture, a maze and a sandpit are all among the ideas being discussed for the venture, which is earmarked for a part of the Links that has been lying derelict for several years.

A fundraising campaign is expected to be launched within weeks to help raise the £80,000 the Botanics believes will be needed to get the scheme up and running.

It is hoped the garden will be open in time for next year's Leith Festival, a week-long event held every June. It is hoped to be created under the banner of Greener Leith - a new initiative aimed at securing open spaces and ensuring new developments include proper public spaces.

The Botanics' involvement is being led by special projects chief Chris Minty, who helped create a botanical garden in Belize, in the South American rainforest.

Mr Minty, who lives in nearby Constitution Street, said: "The project aims to turn the disused tennis courts on Leith Links into a community garden for the benefit of local people and other groups in Leith, including local schools, minority groups and disability groups.

"It will aim to conserve some of Scotland's native plant species, improve the area for wildlife, help the environment and provide a valuable resource for local schools. I hope it will be an interesting, pleasant, aesthetically pleasing area for people of all ages to enjoy. The hope is that it will also play a wider part in the ongoing economic regeneration of Leith by creating a feature that will attract people from beyond the immediate area and improve the overall image of the Links."

He became involved in the project after being approached by community leader Mary Moriarty, landlady of the Port o' Leith pub, on Constitution Street.

She said: "There is a lot of support out there in the community already for this project and I'm delighted that the Botanic Garden is going to be involved in it.

"The idea is that local people are heavily involved in designing and creating the garden."

The plans are expected to be formally submitted to the city council over the next few weeks so that work can get under way before the end of the year.

Leith councillor Phil Attridge said: "This is a fantastic project that I'm hopeful the council will throw its weight behind."

From Brian Ferguson at the Scotsman

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