Does anyone know anything about this intriguing new bit of Leith street art that has appeared on an Albert Street pavement?
Each year the council coordinates a parks assessment exercise where most city green spaces are rated on a series of indicators in seven categories spanning everything from maintenance to marketing.
Council officers work alongside trained community volunteers, and then the numbers are duly crunched and presented in a report. The 2013 report has been published recently, and you can find the full thing here.
To save you wading through it we’ve pulled out the key bits that Leithers may be interested in below.
1. The Leith area still has the worst quality parks in the city but at least they’re improving.
2. Pilrig Park and Dalmeny Street park are getting worse
3. Leith Links doesn’t make the grade
Leith Links is designated as a premier park – that means it’s supposed to be maintained in a similar way to the Meadows, Princes Street Gardens and Saughton Park. Sadly, the council assessment shows that this still isn’t happening, despite recent investment in the park.
Another council analysis of the 2011 census data showed that the Leith Walk ward is now one of the most densely populated places in the UK outside London. As a consequence Leithers have less access to green space than most other parts of the city – and therefore it’s important that what we do have is well maintained.
If you think the council could try harder, by for example, allocating the money needed to upgraded the Leith Links play facilities, then you could consider contacting your councillor about it. We’d be delighted to hear what they have to say. And of course, if you want to help do something practical about it, you could consider joining us, or one of the growing number of Friends of Parks groups.
Photo credit: Scott Walker
The council has got about £9m to spend on repairing Leith Walk to its former glory and this week announced that it could be 2016 before the work is completed.
That’s 18 months after the tram is up and running elsewhere in the city.
Given Leithers recent experience of major infrastructure projects, it would be a brave person indeed who’d put much store in these estimated time-scales, but perhaps we ought to acknowledge that officers are at least trying to work with some transparency.
Residents along The Shore have been in touch with Greener Leith to share their concerns over the rapidly deteriorating road surface at the Shore.
They claim that parts of the road surface near Martin Wisharts restaurant started to sink almost straight after contractors Premier One finished the £551,000 improvement works on the street in May 2012. And although some patching has been done to the road since, the affected locals say that every time a bus passes over the sunken parts of the road, their building shakes, in a way which it didn’t before the works were undertaken.
And there are a lot of buses that use The Shore.
In a June letter sent to council officers on behalf of the block, a resident said that they’d been: “…subjected to increasingly violent tremors and vibrations through our block, caused by vehicles hitting large concave dips in the surface of the road outside on the Shore.
He went on to explain: “This started after the completion of the Shore Improvement works, and has been getting progressively worse ever since. It’s getting so bad now that my flat ‘jumps’ each time, with furniture rattling and the doors banging in their frames. I dread to think what structural damage this is causing, as it happens round the clock, 7 days a week. My neighbours are experiencing similar symptoms and are likewise deeply concerned about potential damage to the building and their properties.”
In their first written response, council officers acknowledge that the buses on the street “will cause more [stresses] than what can be considered average loading,” but carefully avoid acknowledging any link between the decaying roadway and the claimed potential for damage to the private buildings on The Shore.
It said: “The area around Shore has recently seen considerable investment in terms of footway and carriageway improvements. In addition to this the council has introduced restrictions on traffic to only allow buses and cycles to travel in a northbound direction. As part of these works considerable repairs were carried out on the setted carriageway which has gone some way to improve the road surface. I am however aware that further repairs will be required in the near future as areas adjacent to those which have been renewed are now showing signs of fatigue.”
“As this road is a heavily used bus route it is inevitable that the stresses put on the setted carriageway will cause more than what can be considered average loading.”
The official then adds: “However I must advise that there is no requirement in the Road Scotland Act, the Noise Insulation Act or the Environmental Protection Act to encumber the council to investigate or resolve vibration issues so that if vibration is detected there are no set criteria to measure it against. As a result the council does not have guidelines for acceptable levels of vibrations.”
And although some “patching” of the road has been undertaken in response to complaints, officers have acknowledged in further correspondence that more repairs are needed following an Autumn inspection. A further letter, sent in the Autumn to residents said: “The area was inspected yesterday and we have identified further areas that require repair outside Martin Wishart’s and at the junction of Burgess Street. These repairs will be carried out as soon as resources allow.”
But this open ended commitment has been scant comfort to those affected. Our correspondent concludes: “If we have to wait ’til the Council ‘has funds’ to carry out a repair, I fear there may have been irreversible damage caused to the fabric of our building.” Another neighbour told Greener Leith frustratedly: “The council say it’s not their responsibility but they have caused the damage!”
Whilst many would no doubt sympathise with those people involved, the whole saga also begs a number of wider questions about the quality of the work undertaken, and the specification used by the council in the tender process. Surely a newly laid road shouldn’t deteriorate this rapidly within 18 months of work being completed? Or could it be simply that this historic street cannot cope with the volume of buses that Lothian Buses wish to send that way? Nobody knows at the moment, but feelers have been put out.
The next phase of works to improve the path between Leith and Portobello is being planned by but before works start council officers are seeking your views on their draft proposals.
As the map above shows, there are two main sections set for an upgrade. For the most part the proposals are fairly straight forwards and involve widening the shared use footpath to 3.5m for the length of the path between Portobello Prom and St Mary’s Primary School.
It’s also proposed to make more alterations at the Seafield Road/Seafield Street crossing too.
In Leith Links, there have also been some concerns raised about the speed of cyclists coming down off the ramp and into the park, and coming into conflict with pedestrians. There is therefore a proposal to alter the angle of the junction there, so as to encourage people to slow down and be more thoughtful towards other path users at this point.
If there is anything contentious about these proposals it is likely to be the design of this junction. Do you think the council should consider any other designs?
Here’s a few other options we’d like your thoughts on.
1. Speed bumps
At the Millenium Bridge in York, they have small speed bumps on the path to deter people from speeding.
2. Better path markings and signage
In the Meadows, the shared paths there are split in two, with a section for cyclists and section for pedestrians. At junctions, “rumble strips,” and a different coloured more tactile surface indicates to all path users that they need to take more care.
At the foot of middle meadow walk there are higher volumes of cycles and pedestrians with a longer gradient before the junction, and this seems to work.
Any kind of physical barrier like this is unpopular with cyclists and potentially a hazard in poorly lit areas. But on the other hand they certainly slow cyclists down.
4. Do nothing
…and of course there may be folk who would prefer to see no change at all.
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments to this post, and we’ll feed anything we get into the next Leith Links Steering Group, where this proposal is on the agenda.
When will it happen?
A council statement said: “It is currently anticipated that work on this scheme will commence on site in February 2014, and will last for approximately six weeks. Further information on construction dates and any access restrictions during construction will be available in January 2014.
“We would welcome any comments or suggestions relating to the proposals – please forward these to [email protected] or alternatively call 0131 469 3592.
“The closing date for any comments is Friday 20th December 2013. A response will be provided to all enquiries/comments after this date.”
You can download the detailed pdf files of the proposals from the Talk Porty forum, where they’ve already been posted.