On Tuesday evening more than 50 people turned out with their thinking hats to share their ideas for improving Leith Walk.
Over two rounds of discussion the group came up with 30 ideas, and after stripping out the duplicate ones and grouping similar ones together, we’ve managed to cut that down to 15 clear proposals for making Leith Walk better.
So without further ado here they are, in order of votes, most popular first:
- Green bridge – network for cyclists and pedestrians; connectivity to green spaces; destination for visitors (62 votes)
- Improving communication and governance to take account of businesses, residents and wider community (45 votes)
- Investing in cycling and walking on Leith Walk inc seperated cycle lanes (44 votes)
- De-cluttering – Bins; placing, condition, appearance (30 votes)
- Public register of shop owners (26 votes)
- Support and invest in street art by local artists (26 votes)
- Improve Shrubhill – buy back and develop with public money if neccessary (25 votes)
- Public amenities – Improving the visibility of, and ensuring the value of amenities+ prioritisation of community well-being. (21 votes)
- Street market to support local traders of all kinds (18 votes)
- 50% parking removed – except loading – better enforcement (18 votes)
- Reduce visual clutter and sort signage (17 votes)
- Street cleansing regime – council / shops / citizens (15 votes)
- Free public wi-fi to the foot of the walk (10 votes)
- Audit of current provision of public amenities and needs of surrounding community (9 votes)
- Blocking off / access only side streets (3 votes)
Who came up with these ideas?
Just over 50 people took part in the event that produced these ideas. All seven Leith and Leith Walk councillors took part, plus Malcolm Chisholm our local constituency MSP, and MP Mark Lazarowicz.
Mark Lazarowicz has already given his take on the event on his blog here.
In addition, Lesley Hinds the new Environment and Transport Convenor at the city council also took part.
Perhaps more importantly there was a very good mix of local residents, representing people who live on the walk, local business owners and the local community council. There also seemed to be a reasonable mix of gender, ages, incomes and ethnicity too.
If you came along to take part, thanks!
If you didn’t, you can still have your say – find out how below…
How did we come up with them?
The meeting came with these ideas through a participatory process that was coordinated by an indpendent facilitator. The topics for discussion and the ideas that people focussed on where identified by the people who turned up on the day.
There were two rounds of group sessions. In each session, people were encouraged up to come with six topic for discussion. We then broke up into smaller groups and tasked with producing three ideas relevant to that topic. At the end, someone from each group briefly summarised the outcomes of each discussion for everyone else.
After running through that process twice we had generated thirty ideas between us to vote on. Each person was then given 10 sticky dots and asked to vote for their favourite ideas. Particpants were asked not to use more than three of their ‘votes’ on any one idea.
In this way, we came up with a prioritised list of 30 ideas. Afterwards, we grouped duplicate, or similar ideas together, to come up with the headline 15 you see above.
The colour coding on this slightly garish spreadsheet shows how we did this.
Who funded the event?
The event was mainly powered by volunteer labour from Greener Leith and Leith Open Spaces.
We used some of the funds we receive from the Vegware Community Fund, and a donation from Leith Central Community Council to pay for materials and venue hire costs. In total the event cost less than £200.
During the event we also displayed some of the ideas put together for the area by University of Edinburgh Architecture students, as well as local architect Pierre Forissier who shared his interpretation of what a Green bridge over Leith Walk could look like – more on that in a later blog post. He also got stuck in and helped to set-up and take down the exhibition boards.
What happens next?
The outcome of this process will be a report of the event that we hope will be valuable in its own right. We haven’t had time to put together the finished article yet.
However, we wanted to give people who couldn’t make the event a chance to have their say too.
If you are reading this you have internet access. Therefore the easiest way for you to have your say is to take part in the online consultation that you can find here:
We’ve placed the top 15 ideas from the Out of the Blue event online on a special site where you can vote on them, comment on them, or if you feel as though none of the ideas are any good you can add your own.
The online voting process mirrors the process we used at Out of the Blue. Everyone gets 10 votes, but you’re not allowed to put more than 3 votes on any single idea. As we intend to add the votes from the two processes together in about a months time – if you took part in the Out of the Blue event we’d request that you don’t vote online too.
However, everyone is welcome to comment or add new ideas.
In addition, Leith Central Community Council and the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership intend to take the outcomes of this meeting and use it as the basis for further consultation.
It is likely therefore that you will see these ideas crop up over the next few weeks, at Leith Festival Gala Day – and possibly in other Leith Neighbourhood Partnership led events.
…and will any of these ideas actually happen?
Obviously some of these ideas are longer term aspirations, and some are shorter term quick fixes.
There is of course nothing stopping anyone, including local politicians and council officers from taking action now if they can to take some of these ideas forwards.
Clearly, some of the ideas can only happen with the support and leadership of the councillors and council officers and so no doubt local residents will be looking to them for action over the coming months. We are hopeful that we will be able to publish a guest post from Neighbourhood Manager, Mike Penny giving his thoughts on these suggestions in due course.
For Greener Leith’s part, we will do what we always do. We will seek funding for the things that we can do ourselves and campaign for the things we cannot do ourselves.
For large projects this can take time, but consultation work that we have undertaken like this in the past has helped to make the case for some pretty big investment projects in the area. These include the recently completed improvements on The Shore, or the improvements to the cycle paths between Portobello and Leith Links.
Our supporters will be pleased to know we at least have funding in place to help chip in on the street cleansing issue from Leith Decides, so in the short term you can expect that we’ll play our part.
There has already been press coverage in the Scotsman and the Evening News of the event. This has tended to focus on the Green Bridge idea, and seemed to give some of their readers the impression that it was definately going to go ahead and that some of the funding currently allocated by the council to resurfacing the road would be spent on the bridge. This is not the case.
In fact, there may be technical reasons why the ‘Green Bridge’ may be impossible to implement. At present the truth is nobody knows whether the idea is workable let alone how much it would cost. But given the idea seems to command so much public support, we believe that the council should commission a detailed, independent feasibility study into the proposal that could start to put a cost on the idea.
But regardless of the Green Bridge proposal it’s safe to say that one thing that council officials are determined to do over the coming months is resurface the whole street.
As a last point, it’s also important to note that there was a strong sense amongst the organisers after the event that it produced a wide range of good ideas. Some, such as extending free public wi-fi to the Foot of the Walk are extremely likely to go ahead, according to our own council sources.
Others may require “a bit of work” to say the least.
Either way, if you are interested in getting involved in a working group to take any of these ideas forwards don’t wait until the online consultation is finished – get in touch and we’ll see if we can connect like minded souls together.
Indeed, you could always put a shout out youself on thegreenerleithsocial.org