Anger as £17m Danderhall Campus becomes jungle of weeds

Tuesday September 19th 2023

Danderhall Campus Weeds

Danderhall Community Hub car park has seen shrubs overgrown with weeds.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Midlothian council is set to grass over landscaped beds installed as part of a new £17m school campus after weeds ran out of control on the site.

Danderhall Community Hub was handed over to Midlothian Council last year but locals have been left angered after the carefully designed beds became overrun with high nettle and weeds.

And after claims by a local community group that nursery sand pits had to be taken out because they were lost in a jungle of weeds and officers asked to be allowed to use a locally barred toxic chemical on the ground, the council has said it is looking to ‘create more space’ by grassing over some of the beds.

Danderhall Guerrilla Gardeners said the local authority should never have allowed the campus to include ambitious garden designs when they did not have the resources to look after it.

The Guerrilla Gardeners, who were established during lockdown and have taken over public green spaces in the village in a deal with the council which stops them spraying toxic chemicals in their community, said shrubs and plantings at the hub and its adjoining car park have become a jungle.

They said when they raised concerns with the council about the state of the school grounds, they were approached by a manager who asked if they could bypass their agreement and use chemicals to clear the problem.

Helen Graham, from the gardeners, said: “I was called and asked if they could use glyphosate, the very thing we were set up to stop, in the school grounds.

“I made it very clear that was the last place it should be used and that the community and the council have a deal that it is not used here.”

Work on the new Danderhall Community Hub began in 2019 with a new primary school and community facilities built along with a large car park, and was formally handed over to the council last year.

Helen said that while the landscaping was being planted concerns were being raised about how it would be maintained.

She said: “Shrubs and hedgerow were being planted in the car park and throughout the site, but the council only has grass cutting machines and no other resources to maintain such a design.

“Once they took it over nothing was maintained and it became a jungle of weeds and nettles.

“The nursery sandpits had to be removed because they had become so overrun with weeds when school returned.

“After we raised concerns some council workers were sent out but all they have done is strimmed over the weeds and plants and raked out areas.

“It is a terrible waste of money and a mess. The council should be thinking about their ability to maintain sites like this before signing off on expensive designs that they cannot hope to look after in the future.”

Youngsters in the school last week took part in an awards ceremony as they were recognised for work on community gardens, as part of the Guerrilla Gardeners’ Kids Project, in the village by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society.

A Midlothian Council spokesperson said the sandpits had not been removed but were reduced in size and a grass strip added to stop sand blowing away.

They added plans were now under way to grass over some of the bedded areas to “give children more space to play” and “make it easier to maintain the outdoor area”.

The spokesperson said: “We are liaising with Danderhall Guerrilla Gardeners to improve the landscaped area around the hub and the streets in the area. For example, teams have been out last week and two weeks ago weeding and strimming the bedded areas at the hub.

“One of our neighbourhood managers met with the Guerrilla Gardeners and agreed a plan of action, which is already under way.

“We thank local people for their patience and want to assure Danderhall residents we are committed to making sure the area is as tidy and attractive as possible.”

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