Edinburgh’s Greenspaces and Parks – time to have your say?
POSTED ON October 20, 2022 BY James Garry
The Cockburn Association, its members and supporters have a long history of working pro-actively to protect Edinburgh’s greenspaces and parks.
The Cockburn Association, its members and supporters have a long history of working pro-actively to protect Edinburgh’s green spaces and places. So, it is encouraging to see that this Autumn the City of Edinburgh Council is consultation on several significant initiatives that aim to ensure the residents of Edinburgh will continue to enjoy the many benefits of access to greenspace.
The Council is seeking views to further develop the draft Inch Park masterplan. A bid for funding from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund has been made. If successful, this project will move to a detailed design phase and then make a formal planning application. This ambitious plan proposes a range of welcome public realm improvements including the restoration of the historic Inch House, provision for new sports facilities, a visitor centre and access and accessibility improvements with new paths, lighting, and furniture. To date, council staff, representatives from the local community councils, Inch Community Association and community sports clubs who have all worked together to build their vision for a regenerated Inch Park.
The Council is also consulting on its draft Edinburgh’s Thriving Greenspaces 2050: A Vision and Strategy for the City of Edinburgh Council’s public greenspaces . This document sets a 2050 Vision for the city’s greenspaces that will guide the management of the Council’s greenspaces and will be used to set priorities over the next 30 years. The City of Edinburgh Council’s Parks, Greenspace and Cemeteries service is leading on the project to develop a new vision for the Capital’s greenspaces which will ensure their ongoing enhancement, protection, and care. The Council is working with several key local and national partners to develop this vision: Greenspace Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, University of Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Green Spaces Forum (the umbrella group for Edinburgh’s friends of parks groups).They along with the National Trust for Scotland sit on the Project Advisory Board. Together they have shaped an ambitious new vision for Edinburgh’s natural environment and produce a 30-year strategy and action plan to deliver that vision.
This new draft vision is very well-timed given the many challenges that our parks and greenspaces face from a growing population, developmental pressure and , of course, a changing local climate. The Cockburn has long acknowledged that green cover and open spaces are important in Edinburgh because they provide health, wellbeing, and ecological benefits. With climate change in mind, green cover and open spaces provide natural cooling of air and surfaces, and support water management and by increasing the amount of green cover and open spaces in Edinburgh will help to combat the negative effects of climate change.
Finally, views are also being sought on a proposal to nominate an additional twenty of the city’s parks for Fields in Trust protection. This is a legal agreement known as a “Minute of Agreement” between the City of Edinburgh Council and the Fields in Trust charity. This agreement means that that the Council will retain the use as a green space, in perpetuity. However, it sets out what they can and can’t do with a space, usually a park, without needing to consult Fields in Trust. This initiative by the City of Edinburgh Council to ensure local access to green space in perpetuity for all its citizens by legally protecting eligible parks and green spaces is welcome. However, at a local level, we would certainly like more clarity on how local communities of place and of interest are going to have an ongoing say on how their important greenspaces are used and managed. As things stand, local communities and local voices seem to be cut out of the relationship between field in Trust and the Council. Given the many controversies surrounding the use of Edinburgh’s green spaces, particularly parks, this does not seem a particularly positive way forward. So, there’s much to be clarified.
In recent weeks, plans for Edinburgh’s Christmas Festival were thrown into chaos after the company organising the festive events pulled out. Unique Events and Assembly Festival have now stepped in and three separate planning applications have been lodged. These cover George Street, East and West Princes Street Gardens. For several years now, the use of Princes Street Gardens for both winter and summer festivals and event has not been without its problems. In some years long-lasting damage to trees and grassed spaces has been all too evident. And access restrictions to the gardens have been another source of debate. Very similar concerns have, at times, been raised over the use of the Meadows, George, and Charlotte Square Gardens for events. Such concerns are not new. Back in 1988, the Cockburn’s newsletter carried a ‘Gardens of Shame’ feature which decried the supposed degeneration of Princes Street gardens ‘into a squalid patch of commercial chaos and municipal mayhem’. Some residents might still hold that view, but not all by any means.
This brings us back to the Council’s current consultation exercises. These are one way for residents to make their views known on the future use of the city’s parks and greenspaces. But there’s much more that you can do to help protect your local green spaces. Getting to know who owns and manages your greenspaces is a start. Where your local park is already secured ‘in perpetuity’, find out more about what Fields in Trust protection is and what your role as a local resident can been. Many parks have ‘Friends’ groups but not all. And many other groups of local volunteers work to protect the city’s greenspaces. Perhaps you can too?
Image by Thiago de Paula Oliveira from Pixabay