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The main points of arrival and departure for Wester Hailes are the string of bus stops located on the northern edge of Westside Plaza (formerly Wester Hailes Shopping Centre), and the railway station a short distance to the south. Bus services departing here are the 3, 18, 20,21, 30, 32 & 33 provided by Lothian Buses, with destinations including the city centre, Gyle Shopping centre, the Western General Hospital, the Hermiston Gait shopping complex and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France. Service 44 passes nearby to the south on its way to Currie & Balerno; services 25, 34 and 35 pass nearby to the north, with destinations including Edinburgh Airport, Hermiston Park & Ride and Heriot-Watt University's Riccarton Campus. There is also pedestrian and cycle access east towards the city centre via the Union Canal.
Although named for a large private house, the area was not substantially developed until the early 1970s, which is reflected in the dominant housing styles, mainly purpose-built flats and tower blocks. The Hailes estate itself derives its name from the Gaelic ailean meaning 'green plain'.
It was extensively redeveloped during the 1990s and 2000s with a large number of properties being renovated and some others -such as the high rise "slab block" flats at Hailesland Park- being demolished and replaced with newer "low-rise" housing. As well as council and private housing, there is a community housing association called Prospect Community Housing based in Westburn Avenue, who have housing in the Westburn, Clovenstone, Walkers, Barn Park areas of Wester Hailes.
Westside Plaza is the main social and shopping hub of the area, comprising a public house, Jobcentre, council housing office, library, newsagent, a bingo hall, an Odeon cinema and a collection of shops both adjacent to and inside the Wester Hailes Shopping Centre. A post office, opticians, pharmacy, dentist and local market can be found inside the latter.
Local education centres include Stevenson College, the Wester Hailes Education Centre, the Sighthill campus of Napier University and the main campus of Heriot-Watt University to the west, in Riccarton.
A large swimming pool is located in the Wester Hailes Education Centre.