Fiona Henderson: Patronising the locals ends in tears

The Skelf Bike Park opened on March 31. Picture: Scott Louden

The Skelf Bike Park opened on March 31. Picture: Scott Louden

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We used to have a city centre woodland with wildlife, providing a neighbourhood rendezvous, urban kids’ den-building and a zen zone. Our green space needed tidying, but we in Dumbiedykes valued it.

The ward councillors don’t live here but they decided, in a patriarchal, pragmatic tick box out-sourcing way, that the city woodland would be better as a bike park to make the locals healthy.

Fiona Henderson

Fiona Henderson

Although everyone acted “within the letter of the law”, in reality there was minimum community consultation. Existing consultations were misinterpreted as demand for a bike park and used to obtain planning permission, approved by one council employee in February 2014. Then suddenly on Sunday February 21, 2016, Skelf moved in and destroyed the woodland, chopping down most of the full grown trees and this was the first most of the local community knew about the bike park going ahead. Local residents raised concerns about safety, noise, litter, late night youth magnet factor, the loss of the foxes and hedgehogs and the loss of breathing space. The councillors made public apologies for the lack of consultation but planning apparently cannot be “unagreed”. Pooey pooey to concerns, the bike park is supposedly a panacea for all the drugs in the city, prevents homelessness and transforms the nation’s health.

In the first week of the bike park opening, ambulances had to be called for evening cyclists in the unlit, unsupervised area, the park rangers had to clean up the vast amounts of rubbish and bottles thrown over from the bike-park into Holyrood Park and broken glass appeared on walkways. The surface is very dangerous when wet. Week two required emergency maintenance, graffiti appears on the historic wall and growing problems with people needing to relieve themselves. The Queen’s Park is starting to become an open air Parisian-esque pissoir.

The main users so far are yummy families, leaving their private gardens to drive up with lots of paraphernalia, and the fanatics, who also arrive by car. They could easily drive to the other underused bike park at Gypsy Brae, with more parking. The spirit of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (2015) is not semantics or political vote spinning, but to ensure communities are closely involved in decisions that affect them, because they know best. And they are the ones left to live with the consequences. With appropriate community consultation and fewer personal agendas regarding the green space, local residents could have shaped the outcome as a far better working scenario.

Fiona Henderson is a Dumbiedykes resident