West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

A public consultation into plans to reimagine West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh received more than 1,000 responses with more than two thirds in favour of the proposals.

The Quaich Project is a public-private partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council and the Ross Development Trust to transform West Princes Street Gardens with improved accessibility, dynamic architectural designs and innovative facilities.

A key aspect of the proposals is the introduction of a Welcome Centre which will provide; an improved central, safe and compliant access point, new – accessible – toilets, café and lift access. In response to the public consultation, 68% said they supported the plans for the Welcome Centre strongly or with some reservations.

West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

The design proposals, developed by a team of internationally renowned architects led by wHY and including Edinburgh-based Gras, also include a redevelopment of the dilapidated Ross Bandstand and amphitheatre. 74% of respondents endorsed plans for a small number of major events being held in the improved gardens to subsidise year-round community use of the bandstand replacement.

89.7% of those who completed the consultation online or at one of 11 face-to-face information sessions across the city are Edinburgh residents. 74% of the total number of respondents answered that they would visit the gardens the same amount or more after the transformation of the city centre greenspace.

West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

Respondents also represented a cross-section of the city’s population, with a relatively even spread of age groups, from 15% of the 1,077 those taking part in the 25-34 age bracket, 18.1% aged 35-44, 19.2% in 45-54, 19.1% in 55-64, and 17.1% aged 65 and over.

The Quaich Project also ran a dedicated youth consultation in tandem with the main public consultation, seeking the views of 8-17 year-olds.

West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

Participants had the opportunity to have a say on the designs, naming of facilities and possible activities for the gardens. 214 young people took part, 78% of which said they’d be likely to visit West Princes Street Gardens more often if there was somewhere to eat and drink. 83% also said they would visit the gardens more after the proposed changes are made.

The results of the public consultation have been independently reviewed by ASV Research, Associate members of the Consultation Institute. The Institute, a not-for-profit best practice body also advised on the structure of the consultation.

David Ellis, managing director at The Quaich Project, said: “The results of the public consultation on the designs have been incredibly encouraging. As the product of four years’ of engagement with stakeholders and the people of Edinburgh, the designs presented at the most recent public consultation will transform West Princes Street Gardens, making it more accessible, open and useful for all.

“We also asked people if they were in favour of a small number of major events facilitating smaller, community-focused events and it’s heartening to receive the backing of almost three-quarters of respondents for this approach. Currently, the Ross Bandstand is outdated and inflexible and the plans we’re putting forward open up possibilities for a whole range of community groups and activities around the year.

West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

“It’s also particularly positive to note that the young people we spoke to through the youth consultation echoed the position of older demographics that there is a need for a new Welcome Centre to improve accessibility and provide catering options.

“While the results of the consultation are positive, we appreciate that – as with any proposal of a similar scale – some people still have reservations. West Princes Street Gardens is a place for everyone to enjoy, so feedback from the public consultation will feed into the further development of plans.

West Princes Street Gardens vision gains public support

“We believe that West Princes Street Gardens has the potential to be one of the best public spaces in the world, and we thank everyone who took part in the consultation for their input and contribution to make that vision a reality.

“Along with our architects and designers, we will take feedback on board and refine plans before presenting them back to the public in Spring 2020.”

Discussions around the project to enhance West Princes Street Gardens date back to 2015 when a replacement to the Ross Theatre was being considered and the council suggested looking at improvements for other areas within the gardens as well as the Theatre.

Amended plans for a new vision for the whole of West Princes Street Gardens were taken to full council and unanimously approved by councillors in the summer of 2016.

Visualisations by Greig Penny Architecture 2019

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