Iconic tower to be demolished

by Fearghus Roulston

One of Edinburgh’s most striking landmarks is likely to disappear from the skyline, after council officials voted today to demolish the Granton gasholder. The 108-year old landmark was granted protected status just over a decade ago. The structure, which formed part of Edinburgh’s gasworks during the eighteenth century, has been deemed a potential safety hazard by the National Grid, who still own the property.

The council’s decision was made despite protests from heritage groups such as Historic Scotland. The gasworks were the biggest in Scotland for a time, and were in operation up until 1987. However, recent years have seen controversy over their future. A series of investigations have been made into the possibility of refurbishing the now defunct site. The Waterfront Edinburgh scheme, a blueprint for regenerating the Forth, suggested that they be transformed into ‘an exciting and contemporary structure’. The document also conceded that demolition was a possibility if no use could be found for the tower.

This prospect has edged closer, with the recent investigation claiming that refurbishing the structure and decontaminating the surrounding area could cost nearly seven million pounds. The report also highlighted the potential health and safety risks posed by the gasholder. If the plan to build a primary school in the area goes ahead, falling paint flakes could create a”significant risk of harm” to children. National Grid also warned of the increasing possibility that parts of the building could collapse.

Heritage groups have criticised this move on the part of the council and the National Grid. Euan Leitch, vice-chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, expressed some of these criticisms in a guest blog on the Guardian website. “Preserving some examples of all periods of architecture”, he writes, “is vital in maintaining a dynamic historical record of our built environment”.

The councillor for Forth, Steve Cardownie, said: “It is synonymous with Granton but I’m not sure if anyone will miss it. It puts a stop to a lot of development in the area because it is quite big and it costs a lot to maintain”

A similar structure in Dublin was converted into housing in 2007, with more than 200 apartments. Although that project has been hailed as a huge success in the regeneration of the Dublin docklands, it appears little can be done to prevent the destruction of this reminder of Edinburgh’s industrial past. Historic Scotland recently submitted a proposal to the council, which stated that they “consider the Granton gasholder an important reminder of the circa 1900 gas industry and a landmark in Edinburgh’s industrial heritage.” Despite this appeal the demolition seems set to go ahead, although no definite date has been decided

One of the city's most striking landmarks