Tuesday, 15 February 2011

An Unnecessary Rethink

Edinburgh Waterfront from the City of Edinburgh Council Report
You know, after the shambolic and inaccurate mess of my post last night I thought I would try to make amends by writing about an important study which has been brought to my attention by the amazing Bell and Scott's daily delivery of sector knowledge. Bell and Scott have one of the best doorways through which you can view the dynamic Scottish property development industry at work.

Today, they opened the door onto the Draft Area Development Framework for Edinburgh Waterfront and Leith, an area I had previously referred to as an epicentre of dynamic growth. This smouldering hotpot of development has been one of Scotland's development success stories and, like Glasgow Harbour, it is totally unique. The command that Forth Ports and Clydeport have exercised over their respective harbour areas is truly world class.

So it is quite remarkable that the City of Edinburgh Council, assisted by the highly secretive organisation known as A+DS (shortly to be wound up in all probability), the Prince's Foundation and others have decided to 'refresh' the plans for the Waterfront. The report states that, "The sites at the waterfront are among the most significant development opportunities in Europe. Unfortunately, some of the developments first approved and developed at the beginning of the 2,000s have failed to meet this expectation. As a consequence, it is evident that it will take considerably longer for development in the waterfront 'areas of change' at Leith, Newhaven and Granton to be fully realised. Also, some of the recent development models will no longer be desirable in the present financial climate." To my mind this is saying that the previous work has been a failure - how can that be? Incredible! So now they've decided to sit around with Prince Charles eating Duchy Originals, scribble up a few plans and write a big report. What for?
one of the meaningless plans from the report
Anyway one of the interesting things about this report is the language. You know, we expert planners are always keen to talk about strings of pearls, green fingers and the like. This time we have a beating heart, a Great Street and a Merchant City. In fact we have a number of beating hearts, presumably accompanied by a twinkle in the eye, cauliflower ears and a club foot though I haven't been able to find them yet. This is all meant to confuse the public of course because the last thing planners need is interference from the local community and certainly the development industry will be anxious to avoid having to deal with busybodies wearing sandals and brightly coloured cardigans. Not surprisingly though, news of this story in the Scotsman has caused an eruption of antagonism in the comments section which is well worth reading. If anyone seriously wonders why we planners like to avoid consultation just read this!

In my view, Edinburgh has made a big mistake in refreshing the plans for the waterfront areas. What can the Prince's Foundation possibly know that global design firms like RMJM and others don't know? RMJM have prepared highly regarded plans for their private sector masters and managed to ignore community wishes along the way - an excellent strategy that has borne fruit in Glasgow Harbour. This is a waste of public money and will lead nowhere.

For what it's worth, you can download the report from here.

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