The Living Streets Edinburgh Group was formally launched on 1 June 2015 at a public meeting in Friends Meeting House attended by over sixty people. One aim of the meeting was to ask people to choose an area where Living Streets Edinburgh should conduct a street audit (a street audit is a structured assessment of the ‘walkability’ of a street, seen from the pedestrian perspective). The new Group was keen to do this as a proactive way of involving communities in campaigning for improvements in local street environments. Tollcross was chosen as the location of the audit by people attending the meeting with 29 ‘votes’.
There was considerable interest in the audit from the start; a number of people who attended the public meeting expressed an interest in taking part and Tollcross Community Council was an enthusiastic supporter of the audit and three representatives participated. The Edinburgh Access Panel was invited to participate and two members took part. Other members were either people already involved in Living Streets, or members of the public. Altogether, thirteen people took part, requiring two separate audits which took place on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th September 2015, at 10.30 am each day.
In addition to those taking part in the audit itself, a number of messages of interest and support were received from local councillors, MSPs and business organisations.
Home Street and Lochrin Place were chosen as the streets to focus on after consultation with Tollcross Community Council. A major reason for selecting these particular streets was that the City of Edinburgh Council has already committed to improving them as part of a project to link the cycle route from the Union Canal to the Meadows. The project manager for this scheme confirmed beforehand that the timing of the audit would fit with the project timescale, allowing the audit findings to be considered when the detailed design stage of the cycle project was to be carried out.
Specifically, the objectives of the audit were:
- To identify (mostly short-term) improvements to design, maintenance and management of Home Street and Lochrin Place;
- To build experience in street auditing among LSE supporters and partners, enhancing the possibility of further street audit activity in Edinburgh.Living Streets Edinburgh hopes that this audit will encourage other local communities to organise audits of their streets throughout the city, to identify improvements to the design, maintenance and management of the walking environment.
Tollcross is a busy inner-city shopping and residential district of Edinburgh, about a mile from the city centre. Like much of central Edinburgh, the area is busy at night as well as day time, with a mix of residents and visitors. The local population is growing and with a high density; in Edinburgh terms it is diverse, for example in terms of the mix between older residents and students, ethnicity, etc (1).
Home Street is a major trunk road (A702) and the busiest shopping street in Tollcross. It is home to important leisure facilities used from across Edinburgh such as the Kings Theatre and Cameo Cinema. Almost every building is occupied by commercial or community facilities including grocers, banks, hairdressers, restaurants and take-aways, betting shops, charity shops and independent retailers. Lochrin Place, adjoining Home Street to the west, is by contrast almost entirely residential, although a small number of businesses are located near the Home Street junction and a car mechanic/garage is located further up the street.