Locals defend Ocean Terminal garden ‘oasis’ under threat from building work

The Discovery Gardens. Image: Trees of Edinburgh

Locals have spoken out to defend a green ‘oasis’ in Leith from development by Ocean Terminal as part of the Trams to Newhaven project.

The patch of grass and trees was planted when the shopping centre was built in 2001.

It was designed in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, and features plants representing the discoveries of the “founding fathers” of Scottish botany, including David Douglas and Francis Masson, who both travelled to North America in the early 1800s as part of their work.

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Image: Trees of Edinburgh

Now plans submitted by Trams to Newhaven show the area being replaced with paving and some new young trees.

Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council has launched a campaign to “Save Discovery Gardens” and asked local residents to raise awareness and express their objection to the plan.

“During lock-down the garden provided a welcome respite for many neighbours and families who do not have a garden of their own,” the council wrote in a community update.

“Nearly 20 years old now, the garden contains a mix of trees, hedges, climbing plants and flowers, attracting many species of birds and butterflies.”

Conservation campaign group Trees of Edinburgh also called for the area to be saved.

Campaign member Eleanor Harris said: “Gardens are not constructed, they are grown. This makes them literally irreplaceable.

“City gardens are not a luxury, they are a necessity – and with climate change their shading and water-absorption will become more necessary every year.

“That’s why the local residents of Leith Harbour and Newhaven asked Trees of Edinburgh for help to save the Ocean Terminal Discovery Garden.

“Our communities know gardens are irreplaceable – but their protection comes down to a dull word, ‘governance’.

“Does the city which launched the heroic plant hunters around the world have the strength of governance – the clout – to protect the long-term public good from the short-term business convenience?

“I’d like to hope Edinburgh can demonstrate it does.”

Conservation Landscape Architect and blogger Jessica Tivy visited the garden and wrote about its botanical significance on her blog in 2013.

“Representing the discoveries of the founding fathers of Scottish botany, large groupings of individual species are planted to showcase their discoveries,” she said.

“This modern, interpretive garden, provides respite within a commercial complex. Simple signage explains the layout and identifies the plants.

“Vines climb a on framework that is installed on the walls, and lighting makes it a welcoming place.

“Although discreet in its location, this garden has captured an opportunity for tourists and residents alike to discover the many species that these Scottish botanists have introduced to the landscape of Great Britain.”

A spokesperson for Ocean Terminal said: “The regeneration plans for this part of Leith are important for everyone living and working in the area and we are very happy to meet with the community council alongside Edinburgh Trams over this matter.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “We’re aware of the community’s request to retain the garden at Ocean Terminal.

“Representatives from Trams to Newhaven will attend any meeting convened between the community and Ocean Terminal to assist where possible.”

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