Thistle be a real fantasy island

IT is one of the most famous man-made islands in the world and will soon be home to multi-millionaire stars such as David Beckham and Tom Cruise.

Palm Island, built in the shape of a date palm tree off the coast of Dubai, can be seen from space and has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world.

But in a very Scottish twist on the stunning design, Edinburgh is set to create its very own "island" paradise - this time shaped like a thistle.

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Architects are revising original plans for a teardrop-shaped island in the Firth of Forth after watchdogs described it as "profoundly unconvincing" and said it should be replaced with a pier.

The nine-acre island will now take on a more craggy effect in keeping with the nearby Cramond Island and regeneration bosses today admitted there was a "strong possibility" that the island will be shaped like the national emblem of Scotland.

The island would be built just north of the Granton gasworks site and would be connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Plans for the island include a 30-storey tower that would incorporate a hotel on the lower floors and luxury flats on the top, with shops and cafes surrounding a small harbour.

The move has been welcomed locally, but heritage watchdogs today called on regeneration chiefs to concentrate on revamping existing sites.

A ten-year masterplan for developers Waterfront Edinburgh was drawn up in 2004 by architecture firm Make, which is led by Ken Shuttleworth and John Prevc, whose earlier work for renowned architect Sir Norman Foster has won critical acclaim.

The masterplan contains a man-made beach, along with a park, town squares and a high street. Hundreds of luxury and affordable flats and offices would also be built.

A report by Architecture and Design Scotland (ADS), a group set up by the Scottish Executive to advise on good design and planning standards, said the plans for an island at Granton were "simplistic in the extreme".

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The report continued: "The island, in its present configuration, is profoundly unconvincing. Further, it is feared that the proposed island will be a predominately private amenity and give nothing back to the city and its people for the privilege of its location."

The report concluded that the island proposals needed re-examined and suggested that a simple pier and viewing platform might be more appropriate.

Granton Labour councillor Elizabeth Maginnis rebuffed this criticism and said a thistle-shaped island could become a major visitor attraction.

She said: "When the idea for an island first came about it was suggested it should be a lot more ambitious and I think the new design shows such ambition.

"The island could become a great visitor attraction and will help us with our goal of getting people to come to a part of town they do not usually come to."

A spokeswoman for Waterfront Edinburgh, which was set up by Edinburgh City Council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, said there was a "strong possibility" of the thistle-shaped island going ahead.

She said: "We are looking at having a more robust design featuring a craggy look that would be more in keeping with the surrounding environment. The ADS comments have been taken on board."

David McDonald, director of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, said: "The association takes the view that it is highly unlikely that this island will ever be built, purely on financial grounds."