Update following advisory group meeting on 18 October 2021

The second meeting of the advisory group took place online on Monday evening 18 October 2021 between 6pm and 7:30pm.  Fourteen local residents joined Isla Jackson and Nick Wright from the consultant design team.  Thanks to all those who joined the meeting or who sent apologies. 

By way of a reminder: the purpose of the advisory group is to help the consultant team work out the next stages of consultation.  Any local resident from Waverley Park or the surrounding area is welcome to join.  You can find out more about the advisory group by following this link.

What was discussed?

Following a recap on the discussion at the first meeting (follow this link for a summary), Isla and Nick began by outlining the parameters under which the project has to operate, before outlining a potential way forward.  

In summary, the Scottish Government (via Sustrans) have awarded a fixed amount of funding to the Waverley Park Collective for consultancy costs.  Sustrans require certain ‘outputs’ from that funding.  Broadly, those outputs are to produce detailed plans to improve streets in Waverley Park that have broad public support.  (Detailed construction drawings and construction work would be a further phase of work in the future, beyond the scope of the current funding.)  

A significant chunk of the Sustrans funding has already been spent on community engagement and technical work undertaken by the consultant team during 2021.  It will be a challenge to meet Sustrans requirements within the remaining budget, without compromising either community engagement or technical work.

Given that situation, Isla and Nick outlined the approach which the City Council used for the redesign of George Square in late 2019.  Rather than focus on producing a design, the aim was to produce parameters or guidance from the public of what they wanted the redesign of the Square to achieve, for designers then to respond to.  The work involved extensive public engagement over a two to three month period (as explained on the project website, culminating in a face-to-face public workshop,) and produced seven important messages from the public which were to be addressed in subsequent design work, which you can see on pages 53-56 of this report.

Isla and Nick explained that, if that approach were to be adopted in Waverley Park (which would need the agreement of Sustrans as the funder), it would enable the Waverley Park community as a whole to focus on points of agreement (for example, reduced traffic speeds), rather than disagree on how to deal with those issues (for example, speed bumps, road narrowings or road closures).  Focussing on common aspirations is, we think, more likely to build consensus and ultimately to improvements on the ground.  If we can also agree design solutions as part of that work, that would be a bonus - but we would like to focus on agreeing parameters rather than design solutions.

Of course, we would need to discuss this adjustment to the original approach with the project funders Sustrans and the City Council as roads authority.  Our aim in raising it with the advisory group first was to get their reaction to it.

Points raised in discussion included:

  1. It’s really important for the local community to understand the parameters and objectives that the design team is working to.  Individuals may not agree with those parameters, but at least they will understand where the project is coming from and why things are being done a certain way.
  2. It’s also important to give people access to evidence and data to make informed decisions, for example about traffic flows and people’s consultation responses.
  3. The comment was made not to assume that everyone wants a design solution: there should also be a ‘do-nothing’ option.  Another person asked whether traffic calming would be on the agenda - the answer given was an unequivocal ‘yes’.  Others expressed a desire to get beyond agreeing objectives to real tangible improvements.  In other words, there are a variety of different aspirations in the advisory group, just as there are in the local community.
  4. Focussing on ‘George Square’ style design priorities or parameters might ease the process of moving towards consensus on what to do (and be less divisive than trying to agree design solutions).  This would set the community’s ‘brief’ for the future of the streets, although it was noted that funding to implement that ‘brief’ (if any funding were to be required) is likely to come with strings attached from the funders.
  5. There were mixed views on the level of consultation to date - some people say there hasn’t been enough, others say a lot of effort has been made.  Nick and Isla stressed that the important point for them was that they understand the aspiration for effective comprehensive engagement going forward, and will come back to the advisory group with proposals for discussion.

At the end of the meeting, there seemed to be general agreement that the consultant team should discuss a ‘George Square’ style approach with Sustrans and the City Council.  Assuming it proves acceptable, we can then discuss the detail with the advisory group.

The date for the next meeting will be confirmed in due course.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please contact Nick Wright on 07900 334110 or nick@nickwrightplanning.co.uk