Living Streets Edinburgh Group – public meeting 28th June 2016
The Annual Public Meeting of Living Streets Edinburgh Group followed a busy year of campaigning activities which had been set in motion by our June 2015 formal relaunch as a supporting group of Living Streets nationally.
The meeting was held in a popular city centre venue for NGOs – the Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House. Planning for the event began several months beforehand, and management on the night was undertaken by Committee members Stuart Hay, David Hunter, Isobel Leckie, John Russell, Tom Rye and David Spaven.
The event on the night:
The attendance was around 60, the majority of whose contact details were obtained on registration for future reference. The meeting was chaired by David Spaven, Convenor of the Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG).
Short presentations were given by David Spaven (setting the scene), by David Hunter (on the successful implementation of the Tollcross Street Audit, as recommended by the 2015 public meeting, and subsequent follow-through), and by Stuart Hay (on national issues, including progress towards Scottish Parliament legislation on footway parking).
The keynote presentation was made by Paul Lawrence, the City of Edinburgh Council’s new Executive Director of Place, on ‘Improving Edinburgh’s public realm’. Paul set out the transformational challenges and opportunities for his new remit, bringing together transport, planning, waste, economic development, culture, etc in single integrated teams managed by four Locality Managers. He noted the lack of pedestrianisation in Edinburgh compared to other cities (including those where he has worked in the past, such as Newcastle), and highlighted the value of truly flagship schemes where the detail had been properly thought through. Responding to LSEG’s longstanding critique of the gap between CEC policies on walking and the day-to-day reality on the streets, he acknowledged that delivery on the ground was ‘crucial’, noting that basic aspects of livability such as ‘bins and potholes’ were often the dominant concerns of members of the public. He welcomed LSEG’s intention to raise key issues for pedestrians in the public realm in the run-up to the 2017 Council Elections and hoped that the group would work collaboratively with CEC officers once the new organisational structure had bedded in.
In the Q&A session, there was much evidence of strong feelings arising in response to issues of over-development of the city centre, to the detriment of residents and walking conditions generally.
The second phase of the meeting – somewhat shortened due to the volume and intensity of questions – comprised workshops on ‘big asks’ for the 2017 Council Elections and action of decluttering Edinburgh’s streets. On the former, it was agreed that the LSEG Committee would work up a manifesto for the Elections. Many ideas on street decluttering were discussed and debated, with workshop leaders taking detailed notes which will assist the LSEG Committee in formulating plans for a new campaign.
David Spaven / 22 July 2016