For Everyone
Who Loves Edinburgh

The Quiach Project - consultation ends soon!

Posted on 27 Nov 2019 by Lucy

The Ross Development Trust is consulting the public on their plans for West Princes Street Gardens.  Use the following link to access their on-line survey. 

https://www.thequaichproject.org/consultation

Not a lot has changed since the last consultation (on whether the gardens should be managed by an Arm’s Length External Organisation (ALEO), an idea rejected by the public).  However, the design teams have been maturing the design, readying it for a planning application to be made circa March 2020.

The Cockburn Council have considered and debated the proposals at length.  They are very conscious of the many changes taking place in and around the Gardens and the Waverley Valley in general.  Fundamental in its thinking is the need to preserve the gardens as a green space and counterpoint to the ebullience of a modern capital city. Since the early 2000s, all public opinion surveys suggest that green-ness and tranquillity are the two most valued attributes. We agree.

As it stands, the Ross Development Trust will develop the project, but it will be managed and run by the Council. We remain concerned that no detailed business plan outlining how the facility will be used and how often is available.  This is key as any intensification of use or further commercialisation of the gardens is unwelcome.

What we like:

  • Ambition to improve access (but is this the right way to do it?);
  • Revamped “Blaise” area to west as a new “family area”;
  • Refurbished Shelters, although uses still to be determined;
  • Redesigned Ross Bandstand (on its own).

What we don’t like:

  • Overdevelopment of central section Gardens with a new Pavilion, Welcome Centre and Amphitheatre;
  • Change of emphasis from Public Gardens to Performance Area;
  • Significant tree felling and landscape engineering (both construction phase and longer term);
  • Continued lack of clarity on uses, definition and frequency of major events and overall business plan.

Some points to consider when responding to the consultation might be:

  • The Welcome Centre is a commercial development and would require a change to the Act of Parliament to implement; improvements to access can be achieved through other means.
  • The scale of the development of the new bandstand with amphitheatre and Welcome Centre splits the gardens into two.
  • The redesigned Pavilion (bandstand) is supportable in principle but only on its own.  Many detailed issues need to be resolved.  The new amphitheatre will require the significant felling of mature trees and will bifurcate the gardens – neither is acceptable.  Perhaps an open, grassed area simple in layout is a better solution.  Capacity should not be expanded beyond that of the current bandstand.
  • The construction impact will be huge and enormously disruptive.  Effectively, much of the West Princes Street Gardens will be a building site for a substantial period.
  • Elements of the proposals are supportable including the “family area” and the reinvigorated Shelters. However, in detail it must be in keeping with the Gardens and not introduce structures that are intrusive.
  • West Princes Street Gardens is a public park where events are tolerated; it is not a performance area surrounded by gardens.
  • Access improvements are necessary from all areas including the west (by St John’s Church) and the east (by the Floral Clock).

Consideration of the need to the demolish the existing Ross Bandstand with a clear analysis of refurbishment/improvement options will be required as part of any planning application.  From our understanding, this has been dismissed outright based little more on anecdotal evidence and with no cost appraisal for a conservation-led approach to improving the facilities.

Please submit your thoughts on this.  It is a critically important site.  If you can't manage to fill in the survey or make to one of their events, we're sure they would welcome you writing directly to them.  

 

The Cockburn has also highlighted concerns with the current Christmas Market, which now dominates East Princes Street Gardens. Whilst we recognise the seasonal vibrancy that a Christmas Market can bring to the city centre, the scale of the 2019 event together with its massive space deck, which erodes the essential valley form landscape, undermines the essential qualities of the gardens rather than enhances them.  A more detailed blog can be found elsewhere on this website.