Rundown square is in line to become £100,000 city oasis

A RUNDOWN square that residents feared was becoming a haven for drunks and beggars is set to be transformed into a city centre oasis.

Council chiefs have unveiled images showing how Nicolson Square will look after a 100,000 makeover, which will include a landscaped garden, new trees and footpaths.

Work is expected to start in the coming months and when it is finished the square will be opened to the public for the first time in decades.

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City leaders and community groups hope the square will tie in with the ongoing regeneration of Edinburgh University's campus at Bristo Square – providing a main thoroughfare between the university and the rest of the Southside.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environment leader, said the restoration project would make the shabby square "more attractive and appealing".

He added: "I'm sure these improvements will be welcomed by local residents, as well as the wider community who use it, and wish to see it looking its best."

The scheme was announced last year but caused uproar among local residents, who feared opening it to the public would encourage drunks and beggars to loiter in the area and congregate around the nearby public toilets – which are being retained in the restoration project.

Police chiefs echoed the concerns, and said that aggressive drunks who were moved on from local hotspots such as Bristo Square and Hunter Square were likely to relocate to the newly refurbished public square.

However, following recent crackdowns on antisocial behaviour in the Old Town, community leaders have now embraced the project and say it will help "transform" the area.

Colin Christison, secretary of Southside Community Council, said: "The police and local authorities have really clamped down on antisocial behaviour in the last year, so local residents are now much happier about this plan.

"I'm sure a good eye will be kept on the square when it is completed and, if there are any problems, they will be swiftly dealt with."

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Local councillor Charles Dundas added: "There have been problems in the past, but I would not want the council to be put off from improving these places because of hypothetical problems that may arise."

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