Working for a win-win

3rd July 2018 Update:

Edinburgh Council’s decision on the Westbank site has again been delayed. Meanwhile Action Westbank is seeking to ensure that anything that happens on the site begins from community needs and aspirations.

The decision was taken off the agenda of the June meeting of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee, but is still on the agenda for August.

Action Westbank has had good dialogue with our four ward councillors and with council officers, and we have had good support from our constituency MSP and MP. However, we won’t rest easy until the sale is taken completely off the table and we have public communication from the Council that they want to work with the community to ensure a win-win for Council and Community.

The win-win we are seeking is one that builds on the community’s clear wishes as expressed in the March consultation weekend, one that enables the community and council to work together to develop a brief for a mixed use development that adds life and vitality to Portobello, including retained and enhanced leisure facilities for the community.

When we know what the next steps are with the Council we will be in a position to publish the design learning points from the March event. We have shared some key points of feedback from the community-led design / consultation weekend with some key council officers. Although there are sensitivities about publishing them now, rest assured that we are working to try to ensure a process in the community’s best interest.

Each of the three design teams produced extraordinary work in an incredibly short space of time, highlighting not only what is possible for the site, but also the willingness of community members to share their skills and time – whether in the role of designing the possible briefs, or that of turning up to feed ideas into the process.

Reflecting on the community-led design weekend

6th March Update:


What a brilliant weekend! Thanks again to everyone for their valuable input. Having paused briefly for breath, here’s an update…

After two days, following the input of hundreds of members of the community, with the inspiring input of three design teams made up of twelve architects, landscape architects and design professionals, we were able to see the emergence of a range of thought provoking mixed use proposals for the Westbank site. A report and further consultation will follow, by the end of March for those who were unable to make it along.

Reflecting now upon the huge amount of work undertaken over the weekend, it’s perhaps useful to clarify the stage we’re at.

We are not proposing that City of Edinburgh Council adopts any of the weekend’s designs. We are asking them to halt the current process of appointing Cala as the “preferred bidder” on March 27th and to work in partnership with the community – to develop an excellent development brief for this crucially important site.

We strongly believe, in line with a range of public policy objectives, that this is the correct process for the Council to undertake and is heightened by a lack of adequate engagement with the community on their part to date. We consider it is of fundamental importance to take stock and work towards a proposal that meets the needs of both the council and the community, without it being complicated or compromised by any developer’s pre-existing business model.

Over the course of the weekend we have achieved a huge amount. This is in no small part down to the amazing turn out and input from the community.

With the hard work from our teams of architects, landscape architects and design professionals, we explored the issues of three mixed-use proposals which cover a reasonably broad spectrum – from more leisure led to more housing led.

It is important to clarify however, that individually these proposals do not represent community design briefs for the site. They are illustrated examples of what thoughtful mixed-use development might look like across that spectrum of development. They contain really interesting and different elements that were proposed by the community and by the design teams over the weekend. We believe that by drawing together the best of each proposal and through further consideration of the wide ranging information gathered from the community during the event, that it is entirely realistic to arrive at a shared design brief that meets both the community aspirations and the council’s stated financial needs.

The process of delivering a development brief for the Council owned land will require further engagement but we firmly believe we have produced clear evidence of the potential to create an inspiring development that marries community needs with a strong sense of making Portobello a better place through well considered housing, leisure, open space and commercial mixed use development.

We believe that producing a development brief for a site as important as this one is the right thing to do for the long term benefit of our community. It is a positive exercise and one we feel should be ongoing prior to agreeing to sell the site to commercial interests. There will only be one opportunity to undertake this exercise, so let’s make sure we get it right!

Pitz/Tumbles community-led design weekend

Saturday 3rd March (10– 5) and Sunday 4th March (12.30-1.30)

Portobello Town Hall

2nd March Update:

Despite the snow, this weekend Portobello Town Hall hosts an Action Porty drop-in event where local people and users of the existing ­facilities at the Pitz/ Tumbles site can help shape community-led designs for the site and to find out about and give feedback on the various proposals as they develop. 

We hope people will input their views, ­especially on Saturday 10 to 1pm, and respond to three different community-generated designs, to be presented on Sunday between 12.30 and 1.30pm, as we all work to try to turn a threat into an opportunity.

Time is not on our side as the city council’s Finance and Resources Committee will consider whether to approve Cala as the preferred bidder for purchase and development of the site on 27 March.

We aim to get the community’s proposals to the committee well before then in the hope that they will see merit in these and therefore delay any such decision, pending discussions as to how our community-led design can best be delivered.

Action Porty’s aims is to ensure a win-win for the community and the council, and the advancement of the Scottish Parliament’s innovative policies for community-based design.

(See also our 28th February 2018 Scotsman article anticipating the weekend event, which is here)


For the content and timing of the event please click on this link to see the leaflet below: Westbank leaflet – FINAL

Do you care about the future of the Pitz/Tumbles site by Westbank Street, Portobello?

Action Porty warmly invites all residents of Portobello and the wider area to take part in an open, drop-in design event focused on shaping the future of this important site.

The design weekend will include a mix of information sessions, public discussions and participatory design sessions led by experienced local facilitators and architects. You are welcome to attend one or all of these sessions, or just drop in to receive more information. However you choose to get involved, your ideas are valued and we would encourage everybody with an opinion about how this site should be developed to come along and make their voice heard. A detailed timetable for the day will be published soon.

More information:

In response to concerns over the proposed sale of the Council owned Westbank Street site (Pitz), Action Porty are running a participatory event to engage people in shaping the future of this site.

We are keen that the starting point for any development of the site should be the needs and aspirations of the community, rather then a process driven simply to profit a commercial house builder.

Occupying a key gateway location between the Promenade and the High Street, and with over 700 new houses under construction across the road at Baileyfield, this area of West Portobello is already rapidly changing.

We believe there is a pressing need to delay the sale of the site and take stock of the site specific and local issues. We seek to explore the needs of the community and the competing demands for housing, leisure, commercial and social space. We believe the community has the answers and should play an active role in informing the future of this important site.

Utilising the evidence of Portobello Community Council and City of Edinburgh Council surveys relating to the site* and assisted by our locally sourced teams of facilitators and designers the event aims to explore options for change on the Westbank site. With the ultimate aim of producing a “site development brief”, we believe this approach is a once only chance to plan properly for the site and establish long term benefits for the Portobello and wider Edinburgh community.

We would very much welcome your participation at the proposed event on 3rd-4th March 2018.

Our community led design approach is supported by the Scottish Government under their “Making Places” initiative.



Earlier: 22nd December Update:

Thanks to all who encouraged our Councillors to recommend to the Council’s Finance and Resources Committee to delay any sale decision until their March meeting. This has now been done (many thanks Councillors!) which should allow us enough time for the community-led process to reach its conclusion and (hopefully!) inform the next steps for the site.

You can read more about the proposals for Westbank Street/the Pitz area which Action Porty is responding to at the Edinburgh Evening News and Portobello Community Council websites.

For details on how to get involved email westactionporty@gmail.com


18th December update: Community-led design for Westbank/Pitz

Action Porty is delighted to announce that we have been awarded £12,000 by the Scottish Government under their Making Places initiative. This funding will contribute to a community-led design process we aim to use to ensure that whatever happens on Portobello’s Westbank/Pitz site takes its lead from the community.

We very much hope you will participate in the consultations we are planning.