Living Streets Edinburgh are correct, we need to think carefully about what’s being proposed for Picardy Place (report, 11.12.17).
Edinburgh is a growing city. By 2050 it will have grown by 25% and it is important that this growth is undertaken in a way that maintains, or ideally improves, the quality of life we currently enjoy.
To address this we need to add capacity to key arterial corridors (e.g. A702) and the city centre road network without adding to congestion. That means we need to make public and active transport much more attractive. Our great bus service must get better. Active transport must be more attractive, safer and enjoyable.
In the short-term, we can expect to see the development of a bold plan to enhance public spaces in the city centre with the aim of improving conditions for pedestrians and public transport users. Although this is focused on central Edinburgh, it has potential to set the whole city on a positive trajectory.
The ongoing development of that plan is why it is premature to progress the current proposals to redevelop the space at the top of Leith Walk – Picardy Place. The proposals for the area were born over 10 years ago and many argue they are now out-of-step with what Edinburgh needs.
So why compromise so much when Scotland’s Capital deserves better? That question takes us to the £850m St James Quarter development and its corpulent car park (1,000 extra spaces). A £60m Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) funding agreement was brokered between the developer, the Council and the Scottish Futures Trust (a shady organisation involved in the SNP Government’s version of PFI). Making substantial changes to that contract will mean renegotiating the £15m allocated in the GAM contract for Picardy Place.
Within that context, my view is that we should do all we can to engage the GAM partners in a positive conversation about what’s possible. One that seeks to integrate Picardy Place into the wider discussion about ensuring Edinburgh remains one of Europe’s greatest capitals. We need to think about place making, wellbeing and the economy. We need to think holistically about ensuring Edinburgh is a liveable city.