A lot of work over the past year has gone into updating the way the Friends function. We now have digital banking arrangements and a much more comprehensive website and we make use of a range of social media platforms. We hope this will keep us ticking over more accessibly and efficiently for a while to come.
While litter is never really off the Friends’ agenda, at the moment it is right up there at the top. The local Waste Management team has finally completed implementing a 2018 Litter Bin Location Policy and as a result they have removed the last bin (apart from one by the Scotland Street Tunnel) from within the park and have limited us to one outside each of the two main entrance/exits.
The Policy states that it is “beneficial” for parks users to deposit their litter in “strategic locations.” We believe that an effective “strategic location” for the disposal of park users’ litter is a bin in a convenient, conspicuous and central site. As things stand, the bin by the Scotland Street Tunnel is convenient only for users of the older kids’ play park and the remaining two bins are frustratingly invisible from inside the park. We arrange litter picks but do not think it is acceptable to ask volunteers to pick up litter which park users would have deposited in a bin had one been conveniently available.
The Policy states that the Council’s capacity to provide and service bins is finite and that bins should be emptied without having to drive through a park. Since vehicular access is still required to empty the bin by the Scotland Street Tunnel and in case Waste Management does not have the resources to provide an extra bin, we have offered to use some of our funds to donate one, on a site agreed with them and subject to their consent to empty it. We find it hard to believe that the additional time required to service a single extra bin on the main route through the park would badly disrupt the timing of the operational schedule. If the bin bore a label with our logo and the words “Donated by the Friends of the Park” it would pre-empt any cries of “unfair” from users of other parks. We are waiting for a response.
Meanwhile, bouquets where they are due. Gillian, aided by Calum, our welcome newcomer with her cheery yellow snack van, has been keeping the area round the van clean and tidy. And furthermore we have a Park Elf. He wants to be known simply as Martin and since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, when he was furloughed, he has been coming down to the park, weather permitting every Thursday afternoon, equipped with a litter picker and black bag and has been keeping a firm lid on any real build up of rubbish. An object lesson in the power of the individual to make a difference. He has our warmest thanks.
Student flats, 72-74 Eyre Place
Early in the year an American firm, CA Student Living (CASL), submitted a Proposal of Application Notification (21/06729/PAN) to construct over 200 student flats on the disused Jewson’s site. This PAN, launching a period of pre-application consultation, was a statutory requirement for the developers. Local residents marshalled a sophisticated and detailed body of objections, available to view on www.eyreplace.co.uk , and the Friends have weighed in with their own objections, limited as always in such cases to what we see as the likely effect on the park.
We objected to the restricted market aimed at by the development, as students are transient residents, unlikely to have a sense of community or shared ownership of a public space. More cogently, we objected to the density of the proposed development in the context of the 435 New Town Quarter flats, which have already received consent and the 50 flats on nearby Dundas Street/Fettes Row which were refused consent but currently are subject to appeal. These flats have the potential to attract a massive increase in the number of residents to this neighbourhood, for all of whom the park will be on their doorstep, effectively forming their front or back garden.
As we have reiterated constantly when considering local planning applications the park is smaller than the Council’s own Open Space Strategy deems optimal for this neighbourhood and is already heavily frequented. The increased volume of use which cumulatively all these adjacent developments will bring about will put increased pressure on the limited space of the park and in all likelihood lead to degradation of a vulnerable green oasis. It is concerning that the City Plan 2030 (not yet adopted) in its mention of the Eyre Place site suggests that “if possible a direct link should be created to the park.”
The full text of our response can be found on our website www.kgvsy.org.uk It is important to understand that CASL have still to submit a formal planning application.
Shared use of limited space
While we have fears for the future of the park on account of increased pressure of use, its failure to meet the spatial requirements stipulated in the Open Space Strategy is already leading to problems. People use the park in a multitude of different ways. We have dog walkers, cyclists passing through on our stretch of the National Cycle Route, office workers lunching, toddlers requiring a safe fenced off play area, elderly people simply wanting a seat in the sun, community events, pre-schoolers tending the raised beds, picnickers and barbecuers, and older kids who just want to kick a football, punt a ball through a basketball net or bat a ball across a table tennis table. This latter group at the moment is feeling the pinch of limited space as they find themselves sharing a small area of hard surface, which is also frequently used for fitness instruction. At the moment the park rangers are trying to sort out an equitable allocation of use, but the situation highlights the inadequate amount of public recreational open space currently available in this already densely populated neighbourhood and our failure to compel developers to create meaningful open spaces to compensate for the increased environmental pressures their construction brings about.
Shared cycle/pedestrian path
New Town Quarter, the controversial major mixed use development on the south and west boundary of the park, which received consent in February 2021 after fruitlessly consuming most of our energies for the preceding two years, still has plenty of fuel in its tank to concern us. As per Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act of 1991 a sum of money has been agreed with the Council to compensate our neighbourhood for the years of disruption and change which the development will bring about. One highly unwelcome outcome of this windfall stems from a gleam it sparked in the eyes of the Council’s Active Travel team. The planning application gives consent for the creation of a path leading from Dundas Street through a new entrance to the park in the south west corner. The Active Travel team saw in this an opportunity to create a new shared cycle/pedestrian path along the south boundary of the park. The current path will be extended to a width of three metres and more cycling will be encouraged in a small park where cycle access is well served, already inking the main exits and entrances, and where, unhappily, a substantial level of friction between cyclists and pedestrians has existed for some years. It will lead to restricted use of the grassed area alongside the new shared path as people avoid close contact with wheeled traffic. The Friends were clear that in objecting to this proposal we were reflecting the views of an overwhelming majority of park users but we lost the argument. The clincher? “The Council’s policy is to promote cycle use.” Really? Even when it is at best of marginal value and at worst truly damaging to use of (we can’t repeat this too often) a limited green space?
The first phase in the Council’s tree management plan has been carried out, with the removal of the designated ailing trees and, particularly sadly, all the ash trees, some not yet affected by the lethal chalara but all doomed in the long term. It seemed wiser to opt for a comprehensive replacement programme, while the Section 75 money was available, than leave the as yet unaffected trees to face a questionable future when money might well be lacking for replacement. The planting of new trees will take place this coming autumn. The plan for this can be viewed on our website.
More Section 75 money. We had discussions with the Technical Officer responsible for play equipment in parks last summer, but contact lapsed over the winter. However, we are about to pick up on this and work to reach an agreement on the best use of a somewhat limited sum, £75,000 (play equipment is hideously expensive) and see how far we can stretch the money to improve the older kids’ play park.
Scotland Street Tunnel
We were delighted to learn earlier this year that the Tunnel, which is a listed structure, has had its heritage celebrated by the National Transport Trust with a Red Wheel plaque. Though the plaque is already on view a formal “unveiling” is to take place at a time still to be arranged. All credit to the Council’s Bridges and Structures team, who responded with commendable speed when we informed them over the Christmas and New Year holiday period of a break-in to the tunnel. The entrance was secured immediately. .
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Four quadrants of flats have been granted consent in the New Town Quarter’s development site opposite Royal Crescent. The Fire Service has identified a possible risk to future residents of the block in the south east, should they require to be rescued because of a failure of the built in fire protection measures. If the worst were to happen, a fire tender would need to enter the park and as a result it will be necessary to widen the Logan Street gates to ensure access.
The absence of a source of water in the park has led to patchy results when we have carried out planting programmes in the past and we have started exploring possible ways of rectifying this.
SPEnergy painted out a virulent explosion of tagging on the substation. We’re grateful, but it’s a simple enough business to paint over graffiti on a painted surface. Unhappily, we are experiencing an outbreak for the first time in our twenty years of existence on the unpainted stone wall of the older kids’ play park. This is a harder nut to crack. While Council staff have offered to see what they can do, we are not holding our breath, as standard policy is to remove only racist or obscene graffiti. It looks as though it may be up to us to see what we can do.
Welcome to the park
Gillian and Calum in their canary yellow van are establishing themselves as a popular fixture with their coffees, smoothies and snacks and we are truly pleased that the children from Arbor Green Nursery are making good use of the raised beds. Their blackcurrant cuttings have taken root and the garlic is thriving.