As part of Our Land a series of events, I attended an event on Sunday 28th August, about gentrification and the effects of the tourist industry on the city of Edinburgh.
We started out with a Community Design Charrette (a short, collaborative meeting during which members of a team quickly collaborate and sketch designs to explore and share a broad diversity of design ideas). Led by Dr Tahl Kaminer (University of Edinburgh – School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture):
Much was made of the gentrification of urban space and envision, design and materialise alternative ideas. In Edinburgh’s Old Town numerous examples of gentrification are evident.
The Cowgate Occupy Camp is a community response to the recent highly controversial decision to dispose of public land long set aside for the Central Library for a massive private hotel ‘development’.
This deal includes the sale of other public assets including the Cowgatehead Church, a well-used resource for the most vulnerable in the community. We would like to use this opportunity to build connections between different controversies including the King’s Stables Road development, as well as other contested projects in Edinburgh and beyond.
After lunch we there was a public forum held with Andy Wightman (MSP & Our Land campaigner), Dr Hamish Kallin (University of Edinburgh – Geography, Dr Alessandro Froldi (Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh) (co-chair), Dr Sophia Lycouris (University of Edinburgh – School of Art) (co-chair) and Simon Byrom and other local campaigners and residents.
Long term land reform campaigner turned recent MSP, Andy Wightman informed us that changing the planning system was the only way to get change. The Scottish Government was looking at a bill in the new year, and this was a once in about every ten-year chance to make changes to the system for the better.
Local pressure groups can only go so far, when the law needs changing and this would be the only way for decent improvements in the current system.
So between the Scottish Government and local Councils the pressure needs to come now.
With an Edinburgh Council elections coming up in 2017, Andy implored us to make the local issues matter in the Council elections. And to get the vote out as well. Across Scotland, in 2012 – the last Council elections the turnout was only 39%.
Among other items in the open forum included Common Good land rights or the lack of them. Table and Chairs licensing – in city centre spaces and the costs of taking this space away from people. The power of Business improvement districts, such as Edinburgh has which wield massive powers, outside of much public scrutiny.
The a video of the forum can be viewed here.