Police have rail tunnel vision for youth club

THROUGHOUT the 19th century it served as a route for thousands of rail passengers making their way from Granton to Princes Street.

But now part of the Scotland Street rail tunnel is to be transformed into a youth club under plans being backed by the police.

The section of tunnel at the foot of the street would be converted to provide a facility for young people in an area with no significant provision.

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Pc Simon Daley, who is spearheading the project, said: "Young people are often given a bad name, portrayed as violent 'hoodies' by many.

"The truth is most of them are never in trouble, but they want, and need, somewhere to socialise. Residents seem to agree there is nothing for them in this neighbourhood – it's like a desert in the city centre."

The idea to convert about ten metres of the tunnel – opened by The Edinburgh, Leith and Newhaven Railway Company in 1842 – was the brainchild of the community beat officer who, along with his colleague Pc Greig Stephens, community activists and councillors, embarked on involving the neighbourhood in their vision.

Three years ago, Pc Daley was receiving large numbers of complaints about youths hanging out in Drummond High School after hours, with up to as many as 60 at a time. When he moved them on, the teenagers always complained they had nowhere else to go.

Both officers decided that the railway tunnel – measuring about 24ft in width and in height – would be a perfect solution, allowing part of it to be converted and opened up as a supervised youth centre. It is also hoped that further outdoor facilities may be added in the future, for use by those who use the neighbouring park during the day.

Pc Stephens said: "We appreciate this will be a long process, but this area has had no investment for so long."

The tunnel is owned by the council and surveys show it is suitable for the youth club plans. Questionnaires have now been sent out to youngsters, asking them how they would like the tunnel to be used.

Prospective users will then be encouraged to get involved with plans as they materialise.

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Pc Daley said: "Often young people are not consulted about projects. The only way for them to respect something is to give them ownership of it – give them the opportunity to work on it."

Costs for the project are expected to reach in the region of 50,000, although final plans have yet to be drawn up.

Grants have been applied for from the council's various neighbourhood partnerships and the outcomes are expected by March.

PcDaley said: "If the funding comes in by then, hopefully there will be something in place by next year."

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