Friday, 30 April 2010

Free seeds for May Day

Earlier this year SOOT undertook some junk art where we created masks of urban wildlife. We then took our creatures out on World Community Arts Day to look for spaces where they could flourish.

On May 1st we will meet up to sow and share seeds, learn how to make planters and seed trays from junk, and have a wander round the Old Town to explore the streets and spaces and contribute ideas and actions for improvements.

We will be meeting at Chessel's Court Gardens, just next to The Canon's Gait pub on The Royal Mile at 2pm, all are welcome to join us.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Spring into action

This Sunday SOOT will be at Forest Free Fair  from 2 - 5pm alongside One Mans Junk

Come along and get involved with some junk art and meet up and find out more about whats going on!
Throughout the spring we have a number of projects running as we prepare for the Old Town Festival in June where we will be displaying film and artwork produced in and by the community, and hosting talks and workshops. In addition we will continue to campaign on actions identified in the Canongate Project Report.
Like most community based organisations we are dependant on volunteers to help fund raise, organise and contribute to the success of these projects. We welcome any offers of time, skills or ideas from individuals or other organisations. Donations are also always welcome!

Upcoming Events for your Diary

(Meet SOOT at 2pm - Chessels Court Garden)

Sun 9Th May Playground Fun and Games
(Meet SOOT at 2pm – Canongate Venture, New Street)
 Mon 17Th May “Women of the Old Town” Film Group
(SOOT film development meeting - time and venue TBC )

Monday, 19 April 2010

Back to the drawing board

Now that the sale of public assets and Common Good Land at East Market St to Mountgrange has been successfully challenged through the European Commission it is time for the council to rethink their strategy for the Waverley Valley.
Back in 2005 when the Caltongate Masterplan was first revealed to the public, members of SOOT put forward alternative ideas for development which would address the real needs of the area and provide a strategy for development.

Despite numerous concerns being voiced during the masterplan consultations  (in particular at the workshops and the well attended Community Planning Day ) Mountgrange's Caltongate masterplan was agreed with little consideration given to the issues and aspirations raised in consultation. This then formed the blueprint for approving the planning applications which followed.

It was clear to many at the time that the plan was not a masterplan but a detailed plan for an enormous, speculative, commercial development which allowed one developer total control over a very big site (which had been enlarged by the councils agreement to the off market sale of public assets). Many also felt the whole planning process was heavily influenced by the land deal with Mountgrange and should have been called in by Scottish Government.

Now we have an opportunity to review the sale of this key piece of land, and reconsider if it really is surplus to requirements.
Perhaps those in control will now recognise the true value of the site on East Market Street to support the economic, social and environmental health of those who live and work in the Canongate as was highlighted in the Canongate Project film
It is time to tear up the Caltongate masterplan and start again, but this time work alongside heritage and community groups to create a new more resilient development brief for the area.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Caltongate scheme or scam?

The latest news on the Caltongate scheme throws up some serious questions for the future of the council owned East Market Street and the huge gap site in the Canongate in todays Scotsman.
SOOT have been questioning the council on the return of publicly owned buildings since Mountgrange went into adminnistration  in 2009 and calling for the return to use of Canongate Venture (which had provided much needed affordable workshop space until the deal was struck to sell it to Mountgrange for demolition in 2005) and the council flats on the Canongate.
Perhaps now the Council will finally consider returning the common good land and other publicly owned  buildings to productive use for the benefit of the community and look at opportunities for a more sustainable and responsive regeneration of this important area in the World Heritage Site?

Monday, 12 April 2010

SOOT Spring into action

Come along and join other SOOT supporters planning events for the spring and to prepare for events during the Old Town Festival.
There will be opportunities for all to get involved in some creative work (writing, painting, junk art, puppet making etc) or just catch up with friends and enjoy some free activities.

Do you have a particular interest in local history  gardening  scrap art  film or photography? Then this is the time to get involved and help shape new community projects underway. Do you have ideas and skills to share or storys to tell?
All welcome and activities are suitable for all ages.
Experience is NOT necessary enthusiasm only required.

FRIDAY 16th APRIL   3pm - 6pm
Blackfriars Community Rooms,
Coinyie House Close
Edinburgh, EH1 1NL
(access from New Skinners Close)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Moray House Sports Complex

The Moray House Sports complex on Holyrood Road, which was refurbished and extended in 2001 to accommodate the merger with Dunfermline college of Physical Education. Now it is the subject of proposals for demolition to redevelop the site for student housing.
An exhibition of the proposals will be on display to the public at Thomson's Land on Sat 17th April.

Where to develop next?

This week we heard from Dave Anderson ,Edinburgh's Director of City Development, that plans are afoot to build another 'city expansion' this time at the western edge of the city. The area is to be provided with some £30 -£40million of infrastructure, and will of course be well connected to the tram (at least it is at the end of the tramline where a tram depot is being constructed!), and aims to promote creative design capturing the elegance, walkability and livability of the New Town!
Yet, it appears to be another case of a very large development being promoted by a single developer. City Planners are rumoured to have employed architects 7N Architects to draw up a design framework for an Arena, hotels, office blocks and of course a public square.

Whilst some suggest this may be due to development being pushed out of the city by the ever increasing costs of developing brownfield sites in town, there is also a significant number of large scale developments being proposed in the city centre.
With the new planning process well underway, large developments must now include pre-application consultation. This should allow for discussion early on with all stakeholders and of course the costs of consultation are to be borne by the developers but does it work? Is it an improvement to the previous system at either informing the public how to participate or listening to the communities when they do?

The city centre now has many large new developments going through the new system yet the evidence collected and concerns raised by communities in the last 5 years appears to have had little or no impact in shaping the proposals now being brought forward.
In 2008 SOOT undertook the Canongate Project. This community action research highlighted the need for much more affordable and family housing, as well as the desire for more sustainable development and making better use of existing public resources to meet local social and economic needs.

Many of the developments being proposed in the city centre now still are focused on student housing, hotels and apart-hotels, offices and retail/cafes. They still are designed on large scale sites where the existing buildings and structures will be demolished regardless of their potential adaptability for other uses and the plans are usually fairly well advanced by the time the public are invited to comment.
Most recent to be announced is the redevelopment of sites at Sugarhouse Close and the demolition of the Moray House University sports complex on Holyrood Road.

This adds to the additional student accommodation planned for the rear of Festival Theatre and around the Meadows. The Council are also undertaking a consultation on Student Housing however as the draft planning guidance does little encourage spreading student accommodation across the city we are left to wonder if the city centre will still be home to families in the future.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Election is On!

The Election has now been set and it is time to ask who to vote for? Or maybe you are asking Why Vote? or How do I vote?
Most importantly you must be registered by 20th April to be able to vote. If your not registered by 20th April you WILL NOT be able vote on May 6th.
Check you are registered, do not assume you are because you already pay council tax, don't forget you can still register even if you don't have a fixed address.
Many young adults will also not be registered, often due to moving around for college or work. The NUS have helpful advice for students available online.

Don't forget the many over the world and over time who have died (and continue to die) in the struggle for the right to vote. Find out what the candidates for your area stand for, ask them questions during their campaign, will they represent the wishes of those who may vote for them or will they compromise to follow party lines? Check out what they have done if they have been elected before.
Do a bit of research, there are plenty of websites out there to help.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Open and Close

Dunbar's Close Gardens or the mushroom garden, is also known by many locals and children as the herb garden, is a gem in the heart of the Old Town.
However it is also one of the Canongate's beautiful wee green spaces which seems to get less accessible each year! Now managed through CEC parks department it is closed on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm and locked!
It is disappointing that there are so very few small green spaces open and available to the local community that are safe for children to play in, but on weekdays this particular one is often closed before school comes out.

Luckily gardens at Coinyie House Close and Chessel's Court have not become gated and the public access through these areas ensures their protection as PUBLIC SPACE
The closes are a much loved feature of Edinburgh's Old Town, the intimate nature of these streets provide playspace and often a glimpse of something else. They allow us all to experience and understand the compact nature of the medieval city.
The closes also give a hint to the history of the place, and the people who inhabited them, through their names and local children have always enjoyed them as playspace, often renaming them to reflect uses round about.

The closes and wynds also provide a safe alternative for pedestrians to the busy main roads around the Old Town but better access to green spaces and routes is needed. As Edinburgh Council have now invited responses to their Open Space Strategy, perhaps now is the time to look for opportunities to reopen some of the closes and spaces which have been blocked off and suggest new safe routes through the area.