Two of the Trust's board members reflected recently on what makes a place attractive both to residents and visitors. This is an issue of particular importance for the Old Town of Edinburgh, where many feel that the Old Town as a place to live in is being gradually eroded by an increase in hotels, party flats, bars and cafes designed primarily to cater for visitors.
Sean Bradley discusses how recent studies of tourists shows that they want to experience what people who live there are doing and enjoying, not experiences or 'attractions' artificially created just for them.
Jim Johnson looks at a recent description of Milan, where people still live above shops and the shops cater for the needs of the residents in a tight, healthy urban economy.
Both essays provide much food for thought about how we would like to see the Old Town of Edinburgh developed - as a living, thriving core of an old city.
After lengthy discussions with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust has been recognised as a Scottish Charity. This will enable the Trust to attract a wider range of funding for its work, and confirm to bodies that might not be familiar with the work of a development trust that its aims are charitable and work towards public benefit, not private profit. To clarify this the Trust has had to amend its ‘objects’ slightly. These now read –
1. To provide a vehicle for community-led development of Edinburgh Old Town that meets community needs, through encouraging the involvement of local residents in planning and implementing specific initiatives
2. To advance environmental protection and improvement in Edinburgh Old Town
3. To preserve the diverse culture and historic integrity of Edinburgh Old Town
4. To assist those in need by promoting education and skills training opportunities particularly in Edinburgh Old Town
Our charity number is SC042964.
Diverse, balanced, mixed and exemplary
1 The old town is a DIVERSE neighbourhood, not a museum:
A fine-grained diversity of building uses is essential. Both the historic fabric and new development should be occupied with homes, businesses, shops and leisure uses, existing side-by-side with civic buildings and landmarks, and a rich, mixed and stable resident population and workforce. Diversity is achieved primarily through smaller plot divisions resulting in complexity of ownerships and buildings with multiple uses that can be adapted for different uses over time. New single-use, large footprint buildings that are incapable of being adapted should always be avoided.
2 BALANCE between city promotion and local residents is needed:
Currently the Old Town is exploited for tourism and leisure uses for the economic benefit of the city as a whole, without a balancing consideration for the needs of residents. A residential community can only be stable if it has the facilities it needs – local shops and services, some accessible pockets of greenery in the densely built-up area, the chance to escape from 24 hour party-going. A ‘neighbourhood plan’ should be developed with community and stakeholder involvement (following the lines of the charrettes currently underway in the preparation of the Central Southern Arc Development Framework). The council should make available resources to community groups to facilitate the articulation of community needs.
3 A stable & MIXED residential community is vital:
There is a need to increase the range and quality of affordable housing. Affordable family housing should be prioritised, as should rental accommodation. There should be clarity about the definition of affordable housing. Only developments which demonstrate they are adding to the neighbourhood mix should be permitted. This will require mapping the housing mix currently available.
4 EXEMPLARY & ambitious developments and buildings:
Any development must exemplify the City Council’s aspiration to be the ‘most sustainable small city in northern Europe’, based on a stable steady-state economy. It means aiming to reduce reliance on consumption and continued resource depletion, and to meet the Scottish government’s ambitious carbon reduction targets. The Old Town provides an inspiring setting which could form an exemplary European model for the future redevelopment of existing urban areas.
The Old Town Development Trust, in partnership with Edinburgh Community Foods and Old Saint Pauls, hosted a successful food co-op pilot on Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th September. It was well attended and, until the more people than anticipated had bought all they wanted, there was a good range of fruit, vegetables, eggs, etc. Everyone seemed pleased with the quality, the value for money, and the convenience.
The Trust is delighted to announce that we will be piloting a food co-op in the Old Town at the end of September 2010.
The co-op will be held at the end of the month and if it is a success will become a weekly event, allowing shoppers to buy a variety of fruit and vegetables for less than they would spend at the supermarket.
Project Co-ordinator Mark Davidson says: “Several community surveys and community consultation exercises over the past few years have shown that many people who live in the Old Town have problems buying cheap, healthy, fresh food, particularly in the lower High Street and Canongate area. There are no longer the butchers, bakers, fishmongers and greengrocers that there used to be. The food co-op is an initiative to try to make good quality and good value fresh food available to local residents.”
The food will be supplied by Edinburgh Community Foods Initiative who will not only ensure that it is high quality and good value but also that as much of it as possible is locally grown.
While – as Mark notes - the project’s main aim is to provide local residents “a handy alternative to long walks back home with heavy shopping, or trips in buses and cars to bigger supermarkets”, he also hopes that in the future it could become a community meeting place where people can sit and chat over a cuppa or a coffee.
The co-op will be held in Old Saint’s Pauls, 63 Jeffrey Street, on Monday 27th September from 5pm to 7pm and on Tuesday 28th September from 9am to 11am. Please do come along, and stock up on some of the best fruit and veg Edinburgh has to offer.