Thanks to all of you
11th October 2018 Update:
Action Westbank is delighted that the future of the Pitz/Tumbles site is no longer to be determined by private developers. Instead, Portobello community’s needs and wishes will inform how the site will be redeveloped.
Action Westbank welcomes today’s decision of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee, which:
(1) stops the proposed immediate sale of the Westbank site to a private developer and
(2) commits the Council to work with the community to establish a masterplan for the site
So what is in it for the community?
We now have a unique opportunity to input into the process of redeveloping the site, including retaining and/or improving popular leisure facilities, making improvements to the Prom and ensuring that business on the High Street is supported and sustained.
Prior to the November 2017 Town Hall meeting called by the Community Council, the Westbank site was going to be sold off for private residential development and/or for commercial use, with Tumbles retained (but likely demolished and relocated on the site). It was argued that in the economic context there was nothing we could do about it. Community engagement would be restricted to what influence could be brought to bear after a developer was appointed to be the ‘preferred bidder’ in a reactive process that can prove divisive and ineffectual. This meant the end of 5-a-side, and the profits going to the council and Powerleague. The efforts of Save the Porty 5s had gathered some support, but with the status quo unable to deliver any capital receipt and Powerleague keen to vacate the site, this approach was perhaps unlikely to succeed.
In this context Action Westbank was formed to try and deliver an outcome which, accepting change through development of the site, would deliver for both the community and the council: a solid enough (although reduced) receipt for the council, and enhanced community leisure use that as well as Tumbles, will include (probably reduced) 5-a-side but also other community leisure and open space provisions too. The March 2018 weekend community design event led to the creation of three ‘mixed use’ scenarios that showed such an outcome could be delivered (albeit one of the scenarios was ultimately seen as too housing heavy). Action Westbank and local councillors then used the scenarios created by the community-led design process to show council officers and other elected members that seeking to ignore community concerns in advance of the sale of the site was not the best way forward.
Cooperation and negotiation require give and take, but we are hopeful that – if we can work hard and pull together – we can end up with a secure receipt for the council to use for us all as Edinburgh citizens, and also for all of us as community members of Portobello to end up with enhanced provision of local facilities and properly designed public spaces.
Many thanks to all those community members who have given their time to this process, including those on the Community Council and those who worked with the community to create the three scenarios from the March consultations. Thanks also to our local councillors who have worked tirelessly for this outcome, to key council officers who have taken the community seriously, and to the Scottish Government whose ‘Making Places’ grant helped us deliver our community engagement event.
We look forward to the next steps, working with the Council and the community to deliver a place to be proud of for all.
Today’s decision means that the decision making process determining the type of place Westbank will become has been wrested from the hands of private developers and placed in the hands of the community in dialogue with the council. People and place, over profit.
Fingers Crossed for Thursday
6th October 2018 Update:
We have been informed by our local councillors that Westbank is on the agenda for this Thursday’s Finance and Resources Committee meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council. If the Committee backs the recommendations of Council officers then a win-win is looking ever more possible.
Council officers are proposing that the committee:
“1.1.3 Agrees to withdraw the proposed sale of the Westbank site from the open market and request the Executive Director of Place to work with the local community to establish a master plan that seeks to deliver a balance between financial return and local community place-making aspirations”
In their recommendations to the Committee they include the following point:
“3.18 . . . in early March 2018, Action Porty held a drop-in community placemaking exercise for the site, assisted with funding from the Scottish Government. The event took place over the course of a weekend and consisted of three design teams working with members of the community to identify the local aspirations for the site, which were collated into potential design outputs. The community accepted the need for change and three options for the site were produced indicating a range of levels of development. Consequently, the local community, led by Action Porty, are seeking the Council to withdraw from the sale of the site on the open market and for the development of the site to be taken forward by the Council in close consultation with the local community to deliver an exemplar place making masterplan that balances the requirement for financial return with local community aspirations. Principally, a revised development brief would be designed for the site that could be delivered by the Council and/or a development partner.”
The full report going before F&R is available here:
We couldn’t have reached this point without the really positive input of the community as a whole, including those who gave their time freely for the consultation event, and of our local councillors as well as council officers who have engaged very positively with the process.
It’s looking very hopeful.
Fingers crossed we get a positive decision on Thursday and can move on to the next stage of Portobello showing the way in positive and cooperative placemaking.
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)
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.
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.
For details on how to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.