'Eco-city' rises above the housing schemes

12th April 1996 at 01:00
Introducing Castlevale, a model city created by pupils in Edinburgh's Craigmillar area, Charlene Birrell, of Peffermill primary, said: "It's a very special city. Our city is kind to people and to nature. It is about the future of Craigmillar."

Such an "eco-city" is far removed from the realities of polluted, crumbling and crime-ridden streets but the children of Craigmillar think differently. They may have been born and bred in an area of poverty and long-term unemployment, yet they are still capable of applying boundless reserves of optimism to designing the kind of urban area they feel they deserve.

Guided by a team of architects, artists and community workers children in Craigmillar acquired the necessary skills to turn their vision into a scale model. Forty children and 25 adult helpers came together for a week to help with the final construction. Low-level housing, much of which relies on solar heating, is the backbone for Castlevale's 5,000 inhabitants.

In addition to shopping, community and health centres, a hospital, a library and sheltered housing there are a sports stadium, riding stables, nature park and rangers' centre as well as ample parkland: not just for people "but to encourage wildlife", John Berwick, of Niddrie Mains primary, explained.

A three-way track would accommodate cyclists, roller-bladers and pedestrians. Bicycles are hired. "People are less likely to steal bikes that everyone owns," John explains again.

The model, now on show at the Jack Kane Community Centre, does not belong to fantasy land. Glen Craig, an architect member of the team currently designing the massive "south east wedge" development around Craigmillar, is hopeful that Castlevale will be "a centrepiece for discussion" at the team's next planning meeting.

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